What is stress?
Stress is the feeling you have when you are under pressure, emotionally or mentally. Some stress is inevitable in life, and some people say they thrive on stress, as it makes them motivated. However, prolonged exposure to stress is a genuine health concern that if allowed to take hold or develop could lead to far more serious problems such as depression or anxiety or physical problems such as high blood pressure.
The pressures of everyday life, often revolving around work, are often blamed for the increase in stress levels. Life changes are also usually stressful, even if they are not negative: a new baby, getting married, moving house, for example. Because stress is common, many people feel they have to live with it, not understanding the impact stress could have on their general health. There are many things that be done to reduce stress, that will make for a much easier, relatively stress-free life.
Symptoms of stress
Stress can affect how you feel and how your body works. We all have pressures in life; the key question is how you cope with those pressures. Here are some symptoms that may indicate that stress is becoming a problem:
- trouble getting to sleep, or staying asleep
- digestive problems
- loss of appetite
- adrenalin rushes, indicating that the "fight or flight" hormone is being activated more than normal
- difficulty concentrating
- worrying about decisions or unwillingness to plan for the future
- aching muscles
- drinking more alcohol than usual
What you can do to help yourself
Short-term stress is something that we all have to live with sometimes. If there is a big job on at work, or Christmas is around the corner, we will accept that we need to devote more time and energy to getting everything done in time. But it's important that we know our limits, especially around work. Research has shown that lengthening the working week past 40 hours does not increase productivity; the extra hours are used to clean up the mistakes. So the first step is to try to avoid taking on more work than you can healthily deal with.
The following are some tips for keeping stress at bay:
- try to build some physical activity into your day
- explore relaxation techniques such as mindfulness meditation or yoga
- learn to switch off your smartphone at least two hours before you go to bed; leave your work duties at work
- make some time for yourself
- notice unhealthy habits: alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, too much coffee and then work on reducing them
- rethink your life-work balance
- a good night's sleep is important. If you have trouble sleeping, try herbal remedies
How counselling can help with stress
Stress is not a mental illness, but it can tip the balance of your psychological wellbeing. Some people will find that following the stress-busting tips will help alleviate the strain, but others may find that they need more. Talking to a non-judgmental, trained professional can help you find the best way out of a stressful way of living and into a different, healthy lifestyle.
Last updated on 3 August 2015