While short-term stress is of minimal health risk, the longer that the stress is experienced by an individual, the more likely it is that the stress may have adverse health effects. Long-term stress, also called chronic stress, is persistent stress that may be associated with digestive problems, sleep disturbances, problems in the immune system, sex and reproduction problems. The longer the stress is experienced, the more likely there is to be adverse results in the physical health of the person.
Different people experience chronic stress in different ways. For one person, it may result in digestive problems, while, for another person, it may result in impotence and sexual-related problems. Some people may experience sleeplessness, feelings of sadness, headaches, irritability and/or anger. With other people, the stress may result in persistent colds and even a viral infection like the flu.
Chronic stress may be experienced so commonly for particular people that it becomes a matter of routine in their daily life. As such, while acute stress is easily discerned by the individual, long-term stress is not accompanied by the rapid development of physical symptoms. Because of this, the person may not realize the fact that stress is operating in the background of his daily life. The presence of long-term stress may not be recognized by the individual, but it may take the form of seemingly not directly-related psychological conditions, such as anxiety or depression.
1) The most important element in managing stress is to recognize that stress is present and having effects. Therefore, it is most important to learn to recognize the signs and symptoms of stress in one’s daily life (see previous postings in this blog). Depending on the individual, they might be: problems in going to sleep and staying asleep all night, an increase in alcohol use, the initiation or increase in drug use, depression, anger, and feelings of low energy.
2) Check with your doctor to be sure that the problems you are experiencing are not the result of some actual physical malady or illness.
3) Begin to become more aware of your own behavior, reactions, and health status to discover changes which could be associated with short-term or long-term stress.
4) If you are experiencing identifiable stress or the signs or symptoms that are associated with stress, connect with a psychologist to help you to investigate your personal situation to determine the relative role in your problems associated with stress.
5) However, in extreme situations, such as suicidal thoughts or ideation, incipient violence related to friends, family, or general or specific other people, extreme alcohol or drug abuse, or other alarming circumstances, immediately seek psychological intervention to avoid further harm to yourself or other people.