Emotional stress: what it is and warning signs
Learning to manage negative emotions is essential to maintain inner balance and enjoy an optimal state of health and well-being.
Worry, uncertainty, fear, frustration and anxiety are part of life and trying to repress them is a major mistake and a highly unhealthy alternative in both the short and medium term. When faced with these negative emotions, we tend to look for a specific meaning, a reason behind them. Cinthya Molina, psychologist at SHA Wellness Clinic, says that ”the truth is that reality is neutral. That is, it has no intrinsic meaning, nor is it charged with emotions. How we interpret reality is an individual question, as is how people choose to manage these unpleasant experiences to keep them from becoming an obstacle in their path. That is why learning to accept and manage these situations, instead of investing time and energy in fighting them, is so crucial”.
That feeling of being overwhelmed by reality and of not being in control of your own life is one of the main causes of emotional stress which, if prolonged over time, can trigger a vicious circle with a drastically negative impact on your general state of health and well-being. As Cinthya says, “there is a two-way relationship between the emotional and physical levels, hence chronic stress can lead to cardiovascular and digestive problems, muscle pain, migraines, lack of concentration, memory or sexual desire, loss of both intellectual and physical performance or poor and intermittent sleep”.
Stress is a natural, innate and necessary response to a particular stimulus that helps us get through difficult times because it puts the body on alert. When humans still lived in caves, it was the fight-or-flight mechanism that allowed us to flee from any threat. And even though we no longer have to defend ourselves against a mammoth attack, it is stress that helps us to achieve our goals and objectives and to overcome life’s challenges. The problem arises when stress is not correctly managed and it stops being a one-off event and becomes chronic. However, this process is not immediate, but develops gradually. Cinthya explains the three phases of stress becoming chronic so that we can detect them, design a strategy and act as soon as possible.
- When acute stress becomes chronic, the digestive system is the first to notice it because there is a direct connection between the brain and the stomach, which often results in digestive issues.
- In the face of poor management of overexposure to stressful stimuli, the body begins to ask for rewards, that is, dopamine. And it gets those awards through sugar, alcohol or eating more. This is why stressed people resort to substance abuse or binge eating in search of solace.
- The last phase is when the person becomes really ill and there is a noticeable change in their personality; they become irritable, have memory issues or sleeping problems and may end up suffering from disorders associated with chronic stress, such as anxiety or depression.
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