Health & Wellness

Understanding Chronic Stress

June 21, 2023

Serenity Here
I devour health and wellness information, and love to share everything that works in my life, so you can use the same self care and lessons in yours!
TOp categories

Signs, Effects, and Strategies for Relief

It’s no surprise so many of us have an extreme amount of stress in our daily lives. Sometimes it feels too hard to keep up. To keep things straight, and to even remember where we need to be, and when. 

I operated from this mode for so long, that it never even occurred to me there was any other way. At the end of my hustle and bustle, I missed two appointments with the same person – in a row! It was so embarrassing. 

And worst of all, I tried to excuse it away. First, not taking accountability for my own actions. The fact that it was my responsibility to manage my schedule. No one’s fault but my own.

These are the small signs that we’re overspent, overwhelmed, overbooked, and operating from a place of scarcity. 

Sometimes, there literally is not enough time to pack it in. And that my friend, should be a wake up call. But far too many of us, including myself for so long, ignore the signs. 

It seeps into our bodies, with tension, and anxiety. Sometimes so subtly that we forget what it even feels like to live in a body that is in harmony with itself. To breathe steadily, and calmly for most of the day. 

Stress has become an ever-present factor in our lives. And, while stress itself is a natural response to challenging situations, prolonged exposure often leads to chronic stress, and poses significant risks to our physical and mental well-being. 

Let’s journey together and shed light on how to recognize chronic stress, its differentiation from acute stress, the physical manifestations it can cause, the dangers associated with it, and effective strategies for combating chronic stress. We’ll also explore the potential benefits of massage therapy and craniosacral therapy as alternative options for restoring your nervous system  and stress relief.

Identifying Chronic Stress

Chronic stress is constant and ongoing stressors that exceed your ability to cope effectively. Unlike acute stress, which is short-lived and often resolved once the stressor is removed, chronic stress persists over an extended period, causing a constant state of tension and anxiety. Here are some key signs that show the presence of chronic stress:

Emotional and Psychological:

  • Constant feelings of anxiety, irritability, or restlessness
  • Overwhelming sense of being overwhelmed or unable to cope
  • Persistent mood swings and increased emotional sensitivity
  • Difficulty concentrating, making decisions, or remembering things

Physical Symptoms:

  • Frequent headaches or migraines
  • Chronic fatigue or insomnia
  • Digestive issues such as stomach pain, nausea, or changes in appetite
  • Muscle tension, aches, or stiffness
  • Weakened immune system, leading to increased susceptibility to illnesses

Effects of Chronic Stress

Chronic stress can have far-reaching consequences for both physical and mental health. Understanding these consequences is critical for taking appropriate action. Consider the following effects:

Cardiovascular Health:

Chronic stress can contribute to the development of cardiovascular problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and an increased risk of heart attacks or strokes. Research indicates that individuals experiencing chronic stress have a 40% higher risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.

Mental Health Disorders:

The prolonged exposure to stress can lead to the development or exacerbation of mental health conditions such as anxiety disorders, depression, and chronic fatigue syndrome. Studies suggest that individuals with chronic stress are twice as likely to develop anxiety disorders compared to those without chronic stress.

Immune System Suppression:

Chronic stress weakens the immune system, making you more susceptible to infections, autoimmune disorders, and other illnesses. Moreover, chronic stress has been associated with a slower wound healing process.

Coping with Chronic Stress

Thankfully, several strategies can help individuals manage and reduce chronic stress. Consider incorporating the following practices into your daily routine:

Stress Management Techniques:

  • Regular exercise: Engaging in physical activity helps reduce stress hormones and release endorphins, which improves mood and promotes relaxation.
  • Mindfulness and meditation: Practicing mindfulness and meditation techniques can enhance self-awareness, reduce anxiety, and promote mental well-being.
  • Breathing exercises: Deep breathing exercises help activate the body’s relaxation response, lowering heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Time management: Effective time management strategies can help individuals prioritize tasks, reduce feelings of overwhelm, and create a sense of control.

Lifestyle Modifications:

  • Healthy diet: Consuming a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins provides the necessary nutrients to support overall well-being and resilience to stress.
  • Adequate sleep: Prioritizing quality sleep promotes physical and mental rejuvenation, improving coping mechanisms and reducing stress levels.
  • Social support: Cultivating meaningful relationships and seeking support from friends, and family, can alleviate feelings of isolation and provide outlets for emotional expression.

Alternative Therapies: 

In addition to traditional stress management techniques, alternative therapies like massage therapy and craniosacral therapy have shown promise in reducing chronic stress and its effects.

Massage Therapy:

Massage therapy involves manual manipulation of soft tissues, promoting relaxation, reducing muscle tension, and improving circulation. Studies have demonstrated its effectiveness in reducing stress, anxiety, and depression levels, as well as improving overall well-being.

Craniosacral Therapy:

Craniosacral therapy focuses on the craniosacral system, consisting of the membranes and cerebrospinal fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord. It uses gentle touch to release restrictions and restore balance within the system. Craniosacral therapy has shown potential in alleviating stress-related symptoms, enhancing relaxation, and promoting self-healing.

Duration of Relief and Seeking Professional Help

The time required to alleviate the consequences of chronic stress varies among individuals and depends on various factors, including the severity of stress, coping strategies, and overall health. Consistently practicing stress management techniques and seeking professional help when needed can significantly expedite the healing process.

Chronic stress can take a toll on our physical and mental well-being, but it’s not an insurmountable challenge. Recognizing the signs, understanding the difference between stress and chronic stress, and implementing effective coping mechanisms are vital steps toward a healthier, more balanced life. 

Incorporating alternative therapies like massage therapy and craniosacral therapy can complement traditional stress management techniques, providing additional avenues for relief and healing. Remember, prioritizing self-care and seeking support are essential in combating chronic stress and supporting long-term well-being.

Note: The statistics mentioned in this article are for illustrative purposes only and may not represent the most current data. It is advisable to refer to up-to-date sources for accurate statistics on stress and chronic stress.

+ show Comments