One of the key factors that affect the quality of our life is the level of pressure we experience and how we deal with it. The pressure at work or when studying, the pressure of raising children, looking for a soulmate, social pressure, etc.
Do we benefit from it? Can we deal with it in an effective way? Or does it always push us to consume cigarettes, alcohol, marijuana, tranquilizers, etc. (and people still argue over which is worse), and to look for all kinds of therapists who will be able to help us.
It is important to remember that pressure isn’t only the result of “objective reality”, but, for the most part, the way we perceive reality and respond to it.
At ThroughTheNews, we have made efforts to help you understand this topic and offer you the opportunity to identify stress and deal with it in everyday life, each in his or her own way.
In today's world, it's almost impossible for a person to progress and succeed in different areas of his/her life without a certain level of pressure. Sometimes the pressure helps us and gives us the energy and motivation to face daily tasks and challenges, tight schedules and goals; it increases alertness and helps us adapt to new situations, stimulates us on a physiological and psychological level and motivates us to learn new skills.
However, as with seasoning, it’s all about dosage. The problem begins when the pressure results in success and achievements that don’t give us a sense of satisfaction; when fatigue, frustration, and negative thoughts haunt you even while you’re simply trying to relax and enjoy your life.
A person who lives under pressure, in a state of high alertness, pays a high price by exhausting his/her energy and resources. Being under constant pressure results in chronic damage in daily functioning and quality of life and significantly harms our health, both in the short term and in the long run.
Stress is a feeling created by a gap between the external stimulation (physical or psychological) and our ability to deal with it - a distress that is caused by an imbalance when what pushes us exceeds our ability to adapt to it. Pressure can result from a lack of control when we feel overloaded (too many tasks that seem impossible to accomplish). Stress also appears as a result of conflicts (as with difficult decisions) and even of positive changes (such as marriage, the birth of a child, relocation, etc.), and, obviously, because of events like illness, loss of your loved ones, serious accidents and so on.
Is it all about chemistry?
When a person is exposed to a threat, the level of cortisol (the stress hormone) in his/her body increases to help him/her deal with the said threat (“escape, attack or just freeze”). This is an extreme situation that is not supposed to have a permanent nature. Nevertheless, in our modern life, this condition has become the norm: lots of tasks, long working hours, demands for achievement, amounts of information that invade us, significant changes in life stages (e.g., divorce, losing a job), feelings of insecurity – all these and many other factors bring us to the point where we often experience high levels of stress.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America states that between 75 and 90 percent of patients that see physicians suffer from symptoms related to stress. A research conducted by Harvard University revealed that people who live under frequent high levels of anxiety are 4.5 times more likely to have a sudden heart attack; 40 percent of adults in the U.S. experience stress every day. Based on the data provided by the Global Organization of Stress, about 75 percent of adults experienced high levels of stress in the past month and about half of them demonstrated an increase of the stress level in the past years.
In the event of chronic stress, a person deals with a high level of cortisol in his/her system. When he/she is exposed to such a condition for a long time, it becomes toxic to his/her body. Numerous studies have proved that high levels of cortisol significantly increase the risk of suffering from various health problems. It starts with minor problems like tiredness, chronic sleep deprivation, headache, problems with appetite and digestion, including feeling down and having obsessive thoughts. As time passes, the stress might lead us to anxiety and depression, psychosomatic diseases and pains, obesity, immune system dysfunctions, difficulties with memory and concentration, heart diseases, infectious diseases, Alzheimer’s, cancer, stroke, diabetes, etc.
How does stress affect our daily reality?
Psychosomatic disorders and pains
In case of pains or psychosomatic disorders, there’s always a triggering event. Some events are considered stressful by every criterion: the loss of a loved one is a common starting point for a psychosomatic disorder, especially when the loss was sudden, tragic or involved feelings of guilt.
However, in most cases, there’s more than one event involved, and the reason can be low-intensity chronic stress that comes from a number of different factors such as poor living conditions, work pressure, marital mismatch, and so forth. Situations that make us feel trapped especially result in physical diseases: economical stress (due to financial difficulties), clashes with relatives, a personal or family crisis, a new baby in the family, and, sometimes, a combination of a few small worries that collide into huge anxiety.
In these situations, things that we fail to process on the emotional level invade our subconscious and are then manifested in physical pain and illness.
Sometimes, when a physical pain or disease cannot be diagnosed, the patient is referred to a psychiatrist. This is a sensitive issue because of the stigma associated with mental illness, and, as a result, many suffer from psychosomatic pain and illnesses that won’t be diagnosed and treated as needed. Those who are diagnosed properly, succeed and are eventually able to return to a completely normal life without any restrictions.
Continuous stress might also lead to a premature death. A study conducted by the University of Copenhagen in 2014 revealed a connection between strained relationships (with spouses, children, family members and neighbors) and mortality among thousands of men and women aged 36-50. The study considered factors like age, gender, marital status, social and professional status, a background of hospitalization because of previous chronic disorders, depressive symptoms and the need for emotional support.
Frequent concerns and demands from children or partners were associated with a 50 to 100 percent increased risk of death. Frequent confrontations within any kind of relationships with relatives are tied to an increase of the mortality risk by a factor of 2-3.
During our life, we all experience pressure at different levels, and it is important to pay attention to the symptoms mentioned above so that they don't affect our quality of life and we can avoid suffering and dysfunction.
Based on opinions of experts from all therapeutic disciplines in the East and the West, our reality is part of what is happening to us, but mostly, it’s how we get prepared to cope with it, and how we interpret, feel and respond to stress. The conclusion is that we can take a grip on stress. There are many ways to treat and reduce stress and it is worthwhile to make efforts and secure a balance in various areas of life in order to continue enjoying it for many years.
Wise men say: “Half of the solution in solving a problem is recognizing that there is one”. In future articles, we will discuss the main reasons for stress in a more detailed way and offer concrete solutions available to everyone. You will learn how to manage and prevent tension and improve the quality of life for yourself and your loved ones.