Human beings have had their minds evolve at a rate far quicker than their physical bodies. One of the best analogies for how our minds and bodies have evolved separately from each other is that our mind is like modern software trying to run on the obsolete computer that is our mind and brain.
We are still naturally wired to be hunter-gatherers, and that is evident in a lot of our behaviors. Many of the gifts that evolution granted us so that our species could make it this far without becoming extinct are now curses that make it harder for us to cope with society and its expectations.
Stress is one of the most obvious things in this category, and it exists for a very good reason. If we didn't feel stress, then our ancestors likely wouldn't have known the true danger of treading on the territory of a dangerous predator. However, we are now stressed due to more trivial matters, though the effects are still just as severe.
A lot of why we're so stressed is due to the modern lifestyle that we all live, which requires constant work for seemingly little reward. Our brains are simply not wired to work at the rate that is expected of us, and as prices rise without a corresponding increase in wages, stress will only continue getting worse.
Of course, we’re not here to discuss the economy or how society has evolved. We’re going to take a detailed look at stress so that you can better understand it in your quest to eliminate it from your life. We’ll go over what stress is, why it exists, the effects that it has on our bodies, and a lot more.
Once we're sure that our readers understand stress (as you need to know it to beat it), we'll go over some of the ways you can reduce it and its effects. We'll also discuss the topic of anti-stress supplements, including whether or not they're safe to use and if they work in the first place.
Finally, we’ll teach you a little bit about stress management so that you can potentially reduce it without having to spend a cent. We’ll also discuss some things that people can do if they work high-stress jobs. Let’s dive right into the deep end and take a look at what stress really is.
What Exactly is Stress?
A lot of people think of stress as something innately negative, but its definition makes it sound a lot more innocuous than it is. Stress is the way the body reacts to any change that it determines requires a response. These responses can take several forms, which is why people experience stress so differently.
For example, some people will react to stress with a physical response, as their heart starts beating faster and their faces flush red. On the other hand, some people react to stress mentally, so they process it with their mind moving a thousand miles a minute while showing no outward reaction.
Finally, you have people who respond to stress with emotions, as they can start feeling their control over them eroding. Some people may even respond to stress by crying, and that is a perfectly natural reaction, despite society making it seem like it’s a sign of weakness.
Stress was developed as a survival mechanism, back when we had to deal with predators and similar dangers. When taken advantage of, stress can be a helpful tool, keeping us alert and ready for action in survival situations. Soldiers and other people who work in dangerous environments can attest to stress being a useful tool at certain points.
However, we no longer live in a world where we’re in danger just because we step outside, so stress has turned into something that is distinctly negative.
The Science Behind Stress (How Your Body Reacts to It)
While our body is designed with stress in mind, it’s not meant to experience it all the time, as that can result in something called distress. Distress is when your body reacts negatively to stress, causing issues that range from headaches and stomach aches to all the way to increased blood pressure.
When we feel stressed, our body releases cortisol, which is the main hormone that is responsible for our flight or fight mechanism. As you would expect, being subjected to this state every day can have terrible effects on your health, and this can become chronic if you’re stressed too frequently.
Other symptoms of high stress include dizziness and an inability to concentrate, which can create a vicious cycle if your stress is being caused by work that you can't focus on. If you notice that you're grinding your teeth or that your jaw is clenched, that's another common symptom of stress.
Problems sleeping are incredibly common for people who are stressed, and a reduction in stress levels is one of the most effective ways to restore a sleep schedule that is no longer balanced. Too much stress can even lead to difficulties in the bedroom, like having problems getting aroused or a reduced sex drive.
There are many more physical problems that can be caused by stress, and in a little while, we’re also going to discuss the diseases that are linked to elevated stress levels.
Most Common Causes of Stress
You may now be wondering about the most common sources of stress so that you can avoid them and ensure that you live a healthy life, but unfortunately, a lot of them are unavoidable. The very way that our society is designed stresses us out, so the best thing you’ll be able to do is to minimize how stressed it makes you feel.
Of course, the single greatest source of stress in the world is work, and that’s because human beings weren’t designed to work for the majority of the day. When we lived a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, the risks were much higher, but the work of looking for food didn’t take up as much of a massive proportion of our lives as our jobs do.
Since most of our waking hours are spent working or worrying about work, it’s natural for us to end up being stressed because of it, but it’s not the only cause. Our children can also stress us out, especially if we aren’t getting enough sleep so that we can take care of them and tend to their needs.
Stress can also be caused by doing things that you don’t like. If you have a fear of driving and you need to get in your car to go to work every day, that can stress you out.
Even your relations with other people can make you stressed. Have you ever stayed up until the small hours of the night wondering if someone was mad at you because of something you said? That was likely due to stress.
The Difference Between Stress and Anxiety
A lot of people confuse stress and anxiety, and it's understandable, as they have a few similar causes and symptoms. The biggest difference between these two things is that stress has a definite purpose. For example, work is the source of many people's stress, but anxiety is different in that it continues after the stressor is gone.
For example, if you're still feeling on edge after you've submitted a huge work project, then you're likely feeling the effects of anxiety. Anxiety is essentially stress without a source, as they both share extremely similar physical symptoms, but this means that stress is sometimes easier to deal with than anxiety.
Whereas people who are stressed can simply go right to the source of what is bothering them, things are a lot more complicated if you’re suffering from anxiety. While both of these conditions will take a lot of work to get through, people who have experienced both anxiety and stress will argue that the former is much worse.
Also consider that stress isn’t directly linked to any feelings, whereas anxiety is almost always accompanied by a feeling of fear or doom-like negativity. Most people will react similarly to anxiety, whereas stress will elicit much more varied responses out of the ones who are feeling it.
Since these two conditions are so similar, be sure that you know what you’re experiencing before you try and solve it. A lot of people who are anxious end up looking for stress remedies, and vice versa, when they need to be dealt with in different ways.
What is Chronic Stress?
Chronic stress is what happens if you’ve been stressed for a long time, and this can have long-reaching negative effects. While some of the short-term effects of stress can be beneficial, particularly in dangerous situations, our bodies were not meant to operate in a stressed environment at all times.
When we’re constantly exposed to stress, our bodies start to get used to more and more of the cortisol and other hormones that are released during the stress response. Over time, the level of these hormones in your body will build up, and they’ll start leading to negative side effects that can even lead to disease.
For example, one of the main symptoms that people who are suffering from chronic stress experience is high blood pressure. It can also cause damage to your muscles, and it can make it harder to grow, which is why children who are stressed when they’re young will grow up to be smaller.
Chronic stress can also cause damage to your immune system, leaving you vulnerable to other ailments. Finally, the condition can also lead to mental health problems, though that's more dependent on the person experiencing it and their previous mental state.
While the effects of chronic stress can be undone, it depends on how long you’ve been exposed to stress and the levels of cortisol in your bloodstream. If you’re suffering from chronic stress, you’ll want to do what you can to reduce the number of stressors plaguing you as soon as possible.
Diseases Connected to a High Level of Stress
As you may have heard, high-stress levels and chronic stress can lead to all sorts of conditions. Stress has been linked to six of the leading causes of death, and it can cause a lot of other ailments that diminish your quality of life. Perhaps the most obvious disease linked to high-stress levels is heart disease.
Heart disease is the leading killer of Americans, and it is linked to stress through the high blood pressure that you get when you’re suffering from chronic stress. Increased blood pressure results in higher chances of heart disease, and this is compounded by any other factors, like a diet that’s high in sodium.
However, stress is even linked to cancer, with people suffering from chronic stress suffering from cancer at a higher rate than the average population. Cirrhosis of the liver is usually related to alcoholism and other dependencies that damage the liver, but it can also be caused by higher stress levels.
Even parts of your body that you wouldn’t expect to be affected by stress, like your lungs, can end up becoming diseased due to chronic stress. As you can see, there is a lot more to suffering from chronic stress than just added strain on your heart, as it damages your entire system.
Of course, this doesn’t even account for the worse quality of life that you have to deal with when you’re stressed all the time, and that can lead to things like depression and even suicidal thoughts.
How to Relieve Stress
There are many ways that you can relieve stress, and the method that you choose depends on what you like to do. The last thing that you want is to force yourself into a routine that you don’t enjoy just so that you can improve your stress levels, as that obligations will likely make you more stressed.
Try to find something that works for you and that you can easily fit into your schedule so that you don’t have to feel overwhelmed by it. When you first start your stress relief routine, you may want to only do it for a few minutes out of your day until you can make more time for it in your schedule.
One of the most common ways to relieve stress is through exercise. If you’re the active type and you like the idea of expelling your stress through a workout, then implement a routine that will help you reduce your stress levels. Exercise works so well because it helps reduce the levels of stress hormones in your body.
Another way to reduce your stress levels is through essential oils or scented candles. This is known as aromatherapy, and it has been proven to help people reduce their stress as well as improve their sleep patterns.
If you want to further reduce your stress, try to reduce your caffeine intake, as caffeine in larger doses can result in both stress and anxiety.
What is Stress Management?
Stress management is any process that you use to control the amount of stress that you experience in your daily life, and people have various ways of going about it. This is a less direct way of dealing with stress, but it’s no less effective than going out for a jog or burning a scented candle.
The first thing that you want to do when you start managing your stress is to identify the things that make you stressed. Once you’ve figured out your sources of stress, go through each of them and figure out whether you can eliminate them from your life, and if you can’t, find out how to minimize them.
There are four As that form the backbone of stress management, and they are avoid, alter, adapt, and accept. The first is to avoid any stress that you can, so if you’re able to control any of the things on your list, be sure to eliminate them. Up next, you’ll have to alter the situations that you can change but can’t get rid of.
Altering circumstances so that you’re less stressed has a way of bringing control back into your life, and a lack of control is one of the main symptoms of chronic stress. If there are things that you don’t have the power to alter, then you’ll have to learn how to adapt to them, making them a workable part of your life.
Finally, if there’s something that you can’t alter or adapt to, then you’ll just have to accept it so that you live a more comfortable life, free of stress.
The next thing to consider if you’re trying to get rid of your stress is through using supplements that were designed to counter the effects of stress. These anti-stress supplements come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, ranging from all-natural ones that have been fully tested to risky pills that you should probably avoid.
While anti-stress supplements can certainly help you deal with your stress, they shouldn’t be the first thing that you turn to because you want an easy way out of your stress. You should first try and work on your stress management as well as the things that you can do to alter your lifestyle.
Going straight to anti-stress supplements means that you’ll be dependent on them so that you’re not stressed, and they can get pricey in the long run. However, for people who have tried everything and found that the other options don’t work, anti-stress supplements provide them with a great way to deal with the problem.
To give you a better idea of what you can expect from anti-stress supplements, we’ll explore them in detail over the course of this section. First, we’ll discuss whether or not they work before we take a more detailed look at the ingredients that they use. Finally, we’ll go into detail about the science behind how these supplements work.
Do They Work?
The first thing that most people wonder when it comes to anti-stress supplements is whether or not they work, and that depends on what your idea of them working is in the first place. If you’re expecting to take a magic pill that makes all of your stress disappear, then they probably won’t work how you expect them to.
Most anti-stress supplements will take time and repeated use to have a noticeable effect on your state of mind. As such, you’ll have to be patient, as you can wait anywhere between a week and a month before the supplements start to improve how your body and mind deal with stress.
Of course, if you want anti-stress supplements to work, then you’ll have to use them at the same time as you implement a stress management program. The supplements can only do so much, and if you’re still exposing yourself to high stress, then they won’t work anywhere near as effectively as you hope.
Keep in mind that supplements from different makers can have different effects, and one that works for you may not work for someone else. If you’re trying to use supplements to improve your stress, don’t give up if the first one doesn’t work, as a different brand’s formula may work better.
Whatever you do, be sure to get supplements that have been fully tested and confirmed not to contain toxic ingredients. While most of the supplements on the market are beneficial, you still have to be careful with what you put in your body, no matter what the product promises it will do.
Ingredients in Anti-Stress Supplements
One of the most common ingredients that you can find present in anti-stress supplements is ashwagandha, which is an ancient medicinal herb that has been used for thousands of years. Ashwagandha has plenty of proven health benefits, and a few of them can help you improve your stress levels.
Perhaps the most notable advantage of ashwagandha is that it reduces the amount of stress and anxiety that you feel. We’ll take a closer look at the science behind how it does this further down. Ashwagandha can also help with some of the symptoms of chronic stress, like depression.
Rhodiola Rosea is another common ingredient in anti-stress supplements, and it is an herb that grows in cold, mountainous climates. Studies have shown that a daily dose of Rhodiola can help reduce stress in people who are experiencing it, and it has also been shown to reduce the effects of chronic stress.
Magnesium is the final ingredient that we're going to look at in this section, and it's one of the best-known western remedies for stress in contemporary times. The benefits of magnesium have been known since at least the 20th century, and it helps the person taking it to feel more relaxed and at ease.
The Science Behind Anti-Stress Supplements
There are a few reasons why these things are so effective at reducing your stress levels, so let’s start out with ashwagandha. This ingredient goes after the source of your stress, which is your cortisol. Taking ashwagandha has been proven to reduce cortisol levels, helping people with both stress and chronic stress.
Since ashwagandha also helps you sleep and fights depression, it can also help reduce the number of stressors that you have to deal with, making it easier to cure chronic stress. Ashwagandha can also help decrease blood sugar levels, which are a byproduct of chronic stress.
Rhodiola has such a noticeable effect on stress levels because it’s an adaptogen, so it works a little more indirectly than ashwagandha. Consuming Rhodiola helps ensure that your body is ready to handle stress, and it will lessen the negative effects of chronic stress until you can get your cortisol levels under control.
Finally, magnesium is known for making us more relaxed, and one of the reasons why it’s necessary for people who are stressed is because stress depletes our reserves of magnesium. Topping up our magnesium levels will improve our mood and may even help us reduce depression.
If you're looking to improve your stress, you may also have to take a look at the way you live your life and how you deal with stress in the first place. Some methods of coping with stress are better than others. A lot of people try to deal with their stress in ways that make it more damaging in the long run.
For example, escaping your stress with substances like drugs and alcohol can have the reverse effect of what you expect from them. While it may feel better in the short term, substances can actually result in increased stress, as you’re introducing a foreign (and sometimes toxic) substance into your system.
Even using something like sex to cure stress isn’t as good of an idea as it sounds, as that will also result in increased stress, elevating your blood pressure and cortisol levels further. Before doing any of this in the misguided hope that it will make you feel less stressed, take the time to deal with your stress first.
While there’s nothing innately bad about having some fun, you need to make sure that you’re in the right state of mind before you go ahead and do it. If your body is already in a stressed state, then doing something fun may end up exposing it to more cortisol, which is the last thing that you need.
Tips for Dealing With High-Stress Situations Regularly
If you work in a stressful field or you live a life where you’re exposed to stressors regularly, then there are a few things that you can do to improve your circumstances. One of the first things that you can do is start a stress journal, in which you keep track of the things that are bothering you and how you can improve them.
Even if you can’t fix things using your stress journal, you’ll at least be able to understand what’s bothering you and why that’s the case. Knowing what’s stressing you can give you an element of control where there was previously none. No matter how little you control the situation through writing in your journal, it’s better than nothing.
Another thing that you can try to improve your response to stress is meditation, and a lot of people swear by it. Even something as simple as talking to someone about your stress and how you feel can help return some element of control to the situation.
Finally, you’ll want to be sure that you’re getting as much sleep as possible, even though it may be hard while you’re stressed.
When Should You Visit Your Physician?
A lot of people also wonder when they should visit their doctor due to their stress levels, and that’s a question that only you can answer, as we don’t know how you feel. However, we’d recommend visiting a medical professional if the symptoms of your stress start impacting your daily life.
For example, if you start feeling severe chest pain or if you feel like there’s no point in anything that you do, then you should certainly go to a doctor. However, a lot of the time, the symptoms of stress aren’t this obvious, and if you feel like your stress is damaging you, you’re better off being safe and scheduling an appointment.
Your doctor can help talk you through what you should do to improve your stress levels, and they may even be able to recommend some of the right supplements.
In the end, the decision to visit a doctor is entirely up to you, as nobody knows your body as well as you do. If you feel like something is seriously wrong, then don’t hesitate to discuss the issue with your doctor.
Stress is something that we've all experienced at some point or another, but managing it is a skill that everyone should learn. We hope that this guide has proven to be helpful and that we've given you some useful tips for dealing with your stress. Let us know what you thought down in the comments section.