Stress is a normal and natural human reaction that everyone experiences.
When you experience what is known as a “stressor”, which is a change or challenge in your life, your body releases stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol.
The production of these hormones leads to physical and psychological responses. Stress is not, in and of itself, an awful thing- after all, it is a natural response of the body, designed to help you cope with a wide variety of difficult situations.
It is very easy for stress to become a problem however, especially when the stressors continue for long periods of time without any relief. In order to avoid falling victim to some of the more serious consequences of high levels of stress, it is important that you recognise the signs of stress and properly learn how to manage stress in your everyday life.
The Symptoms of Stress
If left unchecked, stress can cause serious harm to your body and your mind. As stated by Cleveland Clinic, when a person suffers from long-term stress the continued activation of the stress response causes “wear and tear” on their system, which can manifest in the following ways:
Physical signs of stress
- – Aches and pains
- – Chest pain
- – Lethargy and exhaustion
- – Difficulty sleeping
- – Headaches, dizziness, shaking and twitches
- – Jaw clenching and muscle tension
- – High blood pressure
- – Sexual issues such as impotency and lowered libido
Emotional signs of stress
- – Anxiety
- – Depression
- – Panic attacks
- – Low moods and increased irritability
This list is not entirely comprehensive, and no two people experience stress in the exact same way. But these are some of the most serious and the most common signs of stress.
Many people suffering with stress try to cope with it in unhealthy, destructive ways- for example by overindulging in harmful substances such as drugs or alcohol. This is an incredibly dangerous thing to do, and it only ever makes the problem worse.
If you are struggling with stress, it is important that you address it and manage it in a healthy way. In 2008, the Mental Health Foundation conducted an online study with a sample size of 4,619 respondents, the largest review yet completed on stress levels within the UK.
This report revealed that 51% of adults who reported stress that year also suffered feelings of depression, and 61% of those who reported stress also suffered from anxiety.
Even more worryingly, 16% of those who had felt that they had experienced stress at some point in their lives had self-harmed, and 32% claimed that they struggled with suicidal thoughts.2 Stress has consequences, serious ones, and we need to do all we can to reduce its destructive impact upon our lives.
Helpful ways to relieve stress
If you are suffering due to stress, there are a few things you can do to help relieve the problem. One of the most helpful things to do is talk. A good support network can make almost any issue easier to deal with, and you might be surprised at how much better you will feel after telling someone, whether that is a friend or family member, about what you’re going through.
Organisations like Healthline suggest that you should also take small, positive steps to help counteract some of the symptoms of stress. For example, if you are struggling to sleep as a result of stress you should try to make small changes that make it easier to get those all-important eight hours.
Turn the TV off earlier than you usually do, dim the lights and give yourself at least an hour of relaxation before going to bed. If you are feeling lethargic, try to get yourself to do more exercise, even a little bit.
Exercise releases endorphins and can improve your mood very quickly, helping you to deal with that feeling of low energy. You should also try to get a handle on your diet. It might seem like a coke and some chocolate will help you to feel better, but a clean diet is actually far better for improving your mood.
Making these changes can be a very difficult thing to do, especially since these smaller problems are all symptoms, not causes, of stress. But addressing these symptoms in this way goes a long way to improving your overall mood, and makes it easier to address the wider problem.
Ultimately, however, you cannot completely eradicate stress from your life. You can address and alleviate some of the problems it brings, but as long as those stressors are there it will be a problem you have to face.
Whether your stress is a result of relationship troubles, financial difficulties or other health problems, it will never fully go away unless the problems causing it do. Sometimes this is an achievable aim, and sometimes it is not. If you are feeling completely overwhelmed by stress, or if you are worried for your health, you can also seek professional help.
The NHS recommends contacting your GP if you are unable to deal with your stress alone. Your doctor can then refer you to an NHS psychological therapies service (IAPT), or you can refer yourself if you prefer.
Through these services you can gain access to free programmes of psychological therapies like CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy), which will enable you to address your stress in a calm, disciplined manner. If you feel that you need support, you should never hesitate to reach out and get it.
Posted on Friday, April 23rd, 2021 at 10:17 am in Mental Health.