“Men practice stress as if it were a sport” – Madeleine Ferron“Chronic” stress
Excessive stress follows a distressing event that is too intense, prolonged or to which we are repeatedly confronted. It is therefore an intense stress or one that lasts over time and leads to the exhaustion of the body’s energy reserves. In contrast to “normal” or adapted stress, where the body is alert and mobilises all its resources, excessive stress leads to an overflow of psychological defences.
There is often a feeling of being overwhelmed, as if something strange, overwhelming, threatening is overwhelming the individual’s thinking. For outsiders, there is a loss of contact and a sense of discrepancy between the situation and the actions of the person in an overstressed situation. There are generally four states that are indicative of experiencing too much or too long stress:
- Stunned: the mind is blank and the victim is often physically and mentally frozen, in a state of stupor, with an expression of total incomprehension on the face.
- Agitation: there is a loss of bearings with disordered gestures and an inability to make decisions and listen to what those around them have to say.
- Panic flight: judgement and reasoning skills are affected and the person will often go straight ahead, sometimes putting themselves in danger.
- Automatism: the actions performed may at first appear normal but are in fact mechanical, repetitive and sometimes useless, and will mobilise all the person’s energy. Finally, exceeded stress can be caused by an exceptional event (emotional shock, paralysing danger) or by extreme circumstances experienced for too long. The coping capacities are then overwhelmed and become inoperative, which can sometimes lead to psychotrauma, and the risks associated with it.
How can we avoid getting into a situation of overwhelmed stress?
Traumas, which are sudden, violent and unpredictable events, cannot be avoided, but chronic stress, which can be encountered every day in certain jobs or during exam periods, for example, can be avoided.
(1) Recognising the signs
To avoid reaching a point of no return, it is important to be able to react early enough. The signs can be emotional, physical and mental, and are generally unusual, with increased irritability, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, decreased motivation, permanent fatigue, insomnia, back pain, migraines, abdominal or chest pain.
(2) Learning to control stress
There are many methods to help relieve the feeling of stress, but the most important thing is to find the one that suits you. These include breathing and relaxation exercises, such as cardiac coherence or meditation. Regular exercise is also a good way to relieve stress.
(3) Adopt a healthy lifestyle
Taking care of yourself and your body eliminates an additional source of stress. Getting enough rest and sleep, eating at set times and controlling alcohol, tobacco and medication will allow the body to regulate itself properly and reduce the appearance of physical signs of stress.
(4) Know yourself
Learning to listen to yourself and discovering your limits, but also accepting them and allowing yourself to withdraw when necessary, are all ways to avoid being overwhelmed by the stress you may face at work or during your studies.
(5) Accepting to ask for help
One of the most difficult steps when you feel that stress is taking over your daily life is not to trivialise it and to dare to talk about it, first with your family and then with your friends and colleagues. Sharing your experiences and feelings is already a way of accepting your stress, but it will also allow you to analyse the seriousness of the situation, and therefore to consider talking to a professional if necessary.
Finally, it is possible to avoid reaching a state of chronic stress, as long as you know how to spot the signs, learn to listen to yourself and not suffer in silence. Then you can give yourself time, identify what you need, and act accordingly.