Stress… We all experience some levels of it (fairly high levels across the nation over the last year, right?) And that’s okay, really. But how much is too much? When does stress start to really harm us?
What is stress?
“Stress can be defined as the degree to which you feel overwhelmed or unable to cope as a result of pressures that are unmanageable.” – Mental Health Foundation
Stress is something that happens to all of us, and most of us can recognise it when it does. Sometimes we just feel stressed. Whether it’s because of work, family, or even a particularly poorly written TV show. We’ve been there.
What are the signs of stress?
Stress shows in a number of different ways: physical, emotional, and behavioural. Some symptoms of stress even show as completely unrelated illnesses. Like a cold, or thinning hair.
Some common signs of stress that you’re likely to recognise are struggling to relax, becoming a little agitated, fidgeting, increased use of substances like alcohol or drugs. But then there are some others that we may not initially realise are being caused by stress, such as chest pain, jaw tension, upset stomach, headaches, missed periods and more.
What effects does stress have on your health?
Stress is known to be the cause of a number of severe illnesses. This is generally after a prolonged exposure to stressors. Some of the most commonly known are heart attacks, hypertension (high blood pressure) and diabetes.
What are the main causes of stress?
There is no single thing that we can definitively say will cause stress in every person. It goes without saying of course that the current pandemic is a major cause of stress for many at the moment. But that aside, there are a large amount of day to day stressors including work, family, financial problems, health issues and loss.
How can you manage your stress levels?
This is going to be very annoying to read, and it absolutely goes without saying, but the best way to destress is to relax. But that is of course very unhelpful advice on its own. If you could just choose to feel relaxed, you wouldn’t feel stressed, right?
The specific ways to reduce or manage stress does depend on the cause, but there are general techniques that you can apply to your technique. An effective tool is known as The 4 A’s of Stress Management: Avoid, Alter, Accept, Adapt.
Avoid stress entirely through forward planning. Aim to keep yourself out of stressful situations. You can do this by not spending too much time with people you may find to be “hard work”. Prioritise your time effectively by including time for rest, and saying no to too many responsibilities.
Alter the situations you are finding yourself in that are making you feel stressed and make them more manageable. Communicate with people about how you are feeling, and what they could do to help you. Assess what about this circumstance is stressing you out, and make some adjustments as you go ahead. Manage your time better, and set limits.
Accept that there are some things that you can’t control. That some things are just the way that they are. How do you deal with that? Maybe you need to vent, maybe you need to do some self reflection and forgive yourself and others.
Adapt to your environment. If the stressors aren’t changing, you might need to change your approach, and how they affect you. You might need to alter your expectations, look at the bigger picture, or even make a point to recognise and acknowledge the positives in your surroundings.
If you’re concerned at all, speak to a doctor. They’ll help you figure out what you need.
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