Feeling stressed at times is completely normal and something we all experience. It is the body's way of sharpening up and performing a little extra when needed. But if the stress becomes too great and / or has to last for a long time without the possibility of recovery, the body will say no. In the worst case, negative stress can lead to fatigue, long-term pain or heart attack.

Why do we get stressed?

In some respects we are still primitive Stone Age people who are constantly prepared to meet predators. It has its roots in parts of our nervous system that we cannot control ourselves. It is called the autonomous (= self-governing) nervous system and consists of two parts: the parasympathetic and the sympathetic nervous system. Together, they control vital functions such as breathing, heartbeat, blood pressure, body temperature and digestion.

When we rest, the parasympathetic nervous system is most active and ensures that functions such as digestion and reproduction are prioritized. But if we perceive an external threat, the sympathetic nervous system takes over instead and prepares us to flee, fight or play dead. The heart rate increases, the heart beats faster and the trachea dilates. Blood sugar levels increase, which gives us fast energy and blood flow to muscles is prioritized at the expense of flow to other organs. The sympathetic nervous system also stimulates the release of the stress hormone adrenaline from the adrenal gland. All so that we can cope with a quick sprint or a fight for life.

What is it that stresses us?

In today's civilized society, it is rarely a bear or a lion that is the cause of our stress surge. Instead, it is often about high demands in school or working life or social duties in private life. In fact, the threat does not even have to be real for the sympathetic nervous system to get going. It may be enough for us to imagine or dream of something that worries us that we will be stressed. The autonomic nervous system cannot distinguish between real, physical threats and perceived threats such as a payment remark.

Different stress reactions

When we get stressed, we react in different ways, either with the fight-or-flight reaction or the play-death reaction. If the brain reacts with struggle or flight, we may feel scared, irritated or angry. It is also common for the brain to react by playing dead when it judges that the threat is so great that we have no chance. This stress reaction often causes symptoms such as fainting, fatigue, dizziness, muscle weakness and stomach upset. You like to withdraw from social contacts and can feel sad and depressed.

Warning signals

Most people can cope with temporary or prolonged stress if only the balance between stress and recovery is there. However, if you experience one or more of the following warning signs, you may need to make a change:

• If you feel tired when you wake up even when you have slept long and undisturbed

• Difficulty falling asleep in the evening or waking up early in the morning without being able to fall asleep again

• Difficult to relax

• Feeling of indifference, depression, anxiety or anxiety

• Difficulty concentrating and poor memory

• Slightly irritated and impatient

• Stomach upset, tension headache, migraine and palpitations

Stiff, tense and sore in the body

• Feeling of difficulty breathing

• Avoid social contacts

• Does not have time for rest, leisure, entertainment or meeting relatives and friends

Decreased sex drive, erection problems, missed or irregular periods

• Gets infections or eczema often and easily

• Comforts fatty or sweet foods

• Uses alcohol, nicotine, caffeine or sleeping pills to cope with everyday life.

If you feel bad about stress and feel that you can not handle it on your own, it is important that you seek help well in advance. 

But before the stress goes so far as to exhaustion or other sequelae, there are a lot of practical things you can do yourself to manage and reduce your stress.

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