April is Stress Awareness Month. During this 30-day period, health care professionals and experts from across the United States work to increase public awareness about causes and cures of stress.
Stress is defined as a normal physical response to events that make you feel threatened, upset or unbalanced in some way. Either real or imagined, stress causes our natural defenses to kick in, resulting in what is known as a stress response. But the body cannot handle stress overload. Too much stress is destructive for the body and mind. It can result in serious health and psychological defects.
The physical implications of stress are numerous. People may experience tightness in their neck, upper back and jaw. Stress also commonly presents itself in the form of bruxism – the habit of consciously or unconsciously grinding one’s teeth. Grinding your teeth can lead to problems with the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). Complications from TMJ disorders can include headaches, chronic pain and difficulty chewing certain foods.
What causes stress?
No two people have the same triggers that set off periods of stress. However, some events are universally traumatic. This includes the death of a loved one, confrontations and relationship problems, including both marriage and divorce. Many people also report finances and employment, either losing a job or starting a new one, as extremely nerve-wracking. For others, seemingly ordinary events in their lives can lead to stressful episodes. For instance, deadlines, long lines or getting stuck in traffic can cause stress flare-ups.
Know the signs and symptoms of stress
You don’t have to wait until you experience acute TMJ pain before you do something to halt a stressful experience. Arming oneself with the facts is the first step we can take to combat the physical manifestations of stress. The following is a list of common warning signs and symptoms:
Memory problems, the inability to concentrate, using poor judgment, seeing only the negative, anxious or racing thoughts, and constant worrying. Emotional symptoms can include moodiness, agitation and irritability, a feeling of being overwhelmed, or feeling isolated and generally depressed.
Behavioral symptoms are another telltale sign of stress. Are you eating more or less than normal? Are you sleeping too much or too little? Do you overuse alcohol, cigarettes or other drugs? Are you biting your nails often or frequently pacing around the room?
The physical symptoms of stress? You’re probably very familiar with these already. In addition to acute or mild pain of the TMJ, you may also experience generalized aches and pains. Diarrhea or constipation are also common symptoms of stress, as are nausea, dizziness, chest pain, rapid heartbeat, low libido and frequent colds.
What you can do about stress
Image Source: flickr.com/photos/24258698@N04/2300402805/