Psychology Tips, Educational Articles and News

Anxiety and Stress

Stress Management for Women

Posted on: February 8th, 2018 by Dr. Angela Bisignano

Even in sunny Southern California, sometimes life just gets to be too much. It’s busy at work and at home. Do you feel overwhelmed by the normal demands of your life? Feel like running and hiding? Are you irritable, anxious and fatigued? Do you ruminate on your distress, and its causes, but not the solutions? When you can’t sleep, or focus, and even the slightest insult feels intense and impacts your ability to function effectively, it may be time to seek help.

Stress is not a mental illness. It is a legitimate problem that can manifest physically and emotionally.

A 2017 American Psychological Association “Stress in America” survey found that more than 50% of Americans experience significant stress. 50% of Americans suffer sleeplessness. 71% of Americans experienced nervousness, anxiety, irritability, anger and fatigue due to stress, in the past month.

What is the biological stress – response system?

Faced with a perceived danger or upset, your body senses your stress and responds automatically, signaling the adrenal glands to secrete the hormone adrenaline. This starts a chain reaction of physical changes to prepare your body to run or stand and fight. This a survival mechanism called the “Fight or Flight response”. When the perceived threat or upset has passes, hormones return to normal.

What are the physical symptoms of stress?

The body shuts down all nonessential bodily functions in preparation for a perceived crisis. The physical symptoms can include:

  • Hypervigilance
  • Blood pressure rising
  • Heart beats faster
  • You begin to sweat
  • Pain receptors shut down
  • Your mouth gets dry and the throat tightens

Chronic stress

When your stressors are always present, the fight or flight reaction does not turn off.

Chronic stress activates the hypothalamus (at the base of the brain) to take charge of the stress response. It signals the pituitary gland to secrete hormones that stimulate the adrenal glands to produce cortisol, the stress hormone. This helps the body cope with a prolonged stressor, but it also suppresses the immune system. Chronic activation of the fight or flight response can impair your health, and increase your risk for health issues.

What are the physiological effects of chronic stress?

A constant state of stress upsets your hormonal balance, and continues to suppress your immunity, leading to:

  • Frequent colds and infections
  • Unexplained and recurrent headaches
  • Stomachaches that can lead to irritable bowel syndrome
  • Cortisol upsets metabolism and leads to weight gain
  • High cortisol increases the risk for insulin resistance and diabetes
  • Physical aches and pains, and muscle tensions
  • High blood pressure and brain changes
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Diminished sex drive and impaired fertility
  • Changes in appetite that contributes to obesity
  • Impairment of memory and concentration due to excess cortisol
  • Increased risk of drug abuse and eating disorders

What are the emotional signs of stress?

  • Anger and resentment
  • Irritability and restlessness
  • Fear
  • Isolation
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

You can’t always control what happens to you, but you can control how you react to stressful life events. When you feel overwhelmed, seek help. There is no shame in taking care of yourself.

Clinical psychologist, Dr. Angela Bisignano can help you identify what stresses you out, and how to care for yourself. You can learn coping skills to productively manage your stress, or help you to deal with stressful relationships. Call Dr. Angela Bisignano in Palos Verdes Estates, California for a complimentary 15-minute consultation and learn how she can help.

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