Effects of Stress on Your Mental Health – Baltimore Psychiatry

Many people make daily comments about being completely stressed out or under so much stress. Even though there are common themes when it comes to stressors, these can really vary from person to person. In other words, what stresses one person may not stress another.

It is known that stress can result in severe physical and mental health consequences.  Physically, the onset of stress can be observed as a result of getting too little sleep or rest, poor eating habits, or too many things to do in very little time. Internally, stress can negatively affect the nervous, cardiovascular, immune and endocrine (hormone) systems, amongst other biological effects.  Mentally, the onset of stress comes with constantly worrying about finances, children, your health or the health of other family, retirement, or the occurrence of a traumatic event.

A great deal of stress occurs as a result of everyday tasks and responsibilities. There is often a collective set of issues that could possibly lead to the onset of stress. These issues typically stem from tasks and responsibilities being piled on an individual.

Internally, our bodies often react to these everyday constant stressors of modern society similar to if they were immediate dangers or catastrophic events because physically we have limited hardwired ways of responding to stress.

Consistent bouts with stress without making the necessary changes to eliminate the effects can eventually cause your mental health to suffer. It is important to understand that exterior events can result in stress. This results in a feeling of not being in control.

How to Get Your Stress Levels Under Control

The good news is there are tools to combat stress. The process is not a lengthy one, but change will not occur overnight. There are cases of chronic stress, which may require major lifestyle changes or psychiatric attention. Individuals can attempt to find their level of tolerance for stress and make honest attempts to remain within those limitations. It is advisable to avoid stressful situations whenever possible, and minimize the effects of stress when not possible.

Here are a few tips to help control stress:

  • Maintain a Realistic Attitude. Setting expectations are critical. Don’t be afraid to simply say NO to activities or situations that stress you out (and are not absolutely necessary –although expectations sometimes come into play in determining what is absolutely necessary). Any situations or events that make you anxious or overly nervous, or cause you to be overextended, could eventually cause stress to build-up. Take a realistic approach to responsibilities and shy away from those that seem to be overwhelming. Make changes and see if you can reassign responsibilities to others if executing them will cause you to stress out.
  • Execute tasks at a comfortable pace. There are no perfect people and you should know that no one expects you to be perfect. The pressure of perfectionism can backfire, as stated well by the aphorism: “The perfect is the enemy of the good.” If certain tasks or activities seem to be too overwhelming, spread them out or get help with completing them. You don’t have to do everything on your own. Some things can be put off to a later date or treated as a group task. The key is to decrease the amount of stress associated with completing the task.
  • Reevaluate your workload to make necessary changes. If stress has occurred as a result of work, reassess your job duties. If possible, you may need to decrease the number of hours you work or completely change the industry in which you work. Although the latter option sounds extreme, think about how much time you spend at work. There have been numerous cases where employees have become so stressed with work that it becomes the main factor contributing to poor mental and physical health.
  • Engage in stress-reducing behaviors like exercise and mediation. Exercise can chew up excess adrenaline that would otherwise be manifest as anxiety. Meditation helps to build up the relaxation pathways of the nervous system, which prevents the alarm system pathways from being constantly active.
  • Talk to a Professional such as a Psychiatrist. If your stress is a result of something that you can’t change in life, or the symptoms of stress are distressing, speak with a mental health specialist. As a psychiatrist, because I am a physician, I can evaluate both the emotional and physical symptoms of stress. For example, I focus on cognitive-behavior therapy and problem-solving therapies for stress, but can also offer medication, prescribed gently for targeted symptom relief. I conduct an evaluation of your situation to provide helpful information on how to alleviate stress in your life, either by modifying the stress or changing the response to it. Professional help can be invaluable because I know that some of the above suggestions are easier said than done, especially when you’re in the midst of the stress!

The onset of stress can easily manipulate the behavior of an individual. They become irritable, difficult to work or associate with, and may find that just getting through the day has become effortful. Stress-related disorders are more common than most people know. Failure to treat stress-related symptoms could lead to severe depression, panic attacks, or aggravate bipolar disorder. The good news is there are helpful proven approaches that provide relief, which is why it is so important to reach out for help and not blame yourself when your own efforts don’t seem to be helping.

Dr. Neal Ranen can assist you with stress and anxiety treatment in Baltimore. Contact us today to set up an appointment!

This article was originally published on Dr. Neal Ranen, Baltimore Psychiatric Services