I’m pretty sure everyone feels stressed at some point in their lives, whether it is due to being busy at work, sorting out lots of things within family life, or even being caught up in a traffic jam when being late for work or an appointment. A little bit of stress can be a common factor within daily life, but it can also lead to bigger issues, so I think it is important to understand exactly what stress is, what the signs of it are, and how it can be dealt with or at least managed.
Stress can cause physical changes within the body which are designed to help a person to take on threats or difficulties; this can be known as the fight or flight response where the body reacts in a way to a perceived harmful event. These changes can be the heart pounding, breathing quickening, a tensing of the muscles, and sweating. These physical effects usually fade once the threat has passed, but when someone is constantly stressed, their body stays in a state of high alert and stress-related symptoms may then occur.
Stress can affect how a person feels emotionally, mentally and physically, and can also affect how they behave. Emotionally, feelings may be that of being overwhelmed/overburdened, a sense of dread, irritable/wound up, impatient, anxious, nervous or fearful, and having a lack of self-esteem. Mentally, a person may have racing thoughts, worry constantly, and experience a difficulty in making decisions and have a difficulty with concentrating on things.
Stress can also affect the way a person behaves, and examples could be that they drink or smoke more than they usually do, they snap at people, and they could avoid situations they have problems with. A person may also constantly worry, be restless, and be tearful or cry a lot.
Physical symptoms could be having headaches, being dizzy, feeling sick, or fainting, experience chest pains, having high blood pressure, having blurred eyesight or sore eyes, having problems sleeping, staying asleep, or having nightmares, feeling tired all of the time, experiencing muscle tension or pain, and eating too much or too little.
People can deal with stress in a variety of ways. Changes in lifestyle can help, such as making more time for hobbies and interests, and taking a break or a holiday. Day-to-day changes such as sharing their problems with family or friends, getting regular exercise, eating healthily, and getting enough sleep can also help. Ways to manage stress could be by practising mindfulness, and carrying out breathing exercises to stay calm. There are lots of apps that can be downloaded to make these management strategies very easy to undertake.
Stress, especially in today’s world, can be unavoidable for the most part, but I think by being aware of the signs of stress and how it can be managed, the negative effects that it can cause can be helped. Hopefully just by being aware of the signs of stress can have a positive impact on allowing a person, and those around them, deal with life’s pressures, whatever they may be.
Sarah Keeping MBPsS MSc PgDip GDip BA (Hons)
Follow Sarah on twitter at @keepingapproach