symptoms of stress
symptoms of stress
symptoms of stress
For many people, stress is simply a part of everyday life, whether it arises from a difficult work situation, or family issues. The term stress does not refer to an illness of any kind, so much as a process or reactive experience. When people declare they are suffering from stress they are usually referring to the pressures they are feeling in their lives. In that sense, stress signifies a discrepancy between the demands placed on us by ourselves or others, and our feelings of being able to cope or meet expectations.
Stress is not necessarily a negative thing in itself. A degree of stress can be motivating, exciting even, and can prevent us from becoming bored from lack of challenge. It only really becomes a problem when it accelerates beyond a person’s resources to cope, and results in feelings of being overwhelmed. In this article, we will be talking predominantly about negative stress, and how it can be effectively managed.
Examples Of Negative Stress
There are many common sources of stress, and most of us will experience at least one of them at some point in our lives. These include:
- Work stress – for example stress from excessive demands, tight deadlines, poor working conditions, long hours, fatigue and lack of breaks, workplace conflict, bullying, and insufficient resources to perform the job adequately.
- Home / family stress – stress resulting from parenthood (for instance after the birth of a new baby, or coping with teens), financial pressures, relationship problems, role-juggling, and high expectations of self.
- Study stress – can result from high study loads and deadlines, learning difficulties, looming exams, fear of letting parents or teachers down, and social issues such as conflict or bullying.
- Other types of stress – these might come from relationship difficulties, lifestyle pressures (such as the desire to get fit or lose weight), feelings of being overwhelmed by world news, and so on.
Stress responses are unique to the individual. A situation one person considers stressful might be nothing out of the ordinary to someone else, and vice versa. For example, some people will even declare that they thrive on work stress, and therefore feel bored on the weekends or when on holiday!
However, when it is excessively negative, stress can lead to the following:
- Physiological changes – ‘fight or flight’ reactions that may lead to heart palpitations, increased blood pressure, sweating, fast breathing, muscle tension, headaches, neck or back pain, poor sleep patterns, reduced endorphins and higher levels of adrenaline, low immunity leading to frequent colds or other illnesses, and chronic fatigue syndrome.
- Mental and emotional issues – crying, overreacting, panic, anxiety disorders, depression, phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Some Statistics On Stress In Australia
According to the results from the Stress and Wellbeing in Australia Survey 2014, conducted by the Australian Psychological Society, approximately 25% of people surveyed reported suffering from moderate to severe negative stress. In addition, around 70% of Australians reported that current stress was having some impact on their physical health, while around 66% said that it was affecting their mental health.
Some of the other results included:
- Higher levels of stress were reported in the young adult (18-35) group than for the older groups. The three highest sources of stress cited were finances, family pressures, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. For young adults aged 18-25, listening to music was cited as the most common coping method.
- For women, the most common stressors were family issues and financial pressures. To cope with stress, they were likely to use reading, spending time with friends and family, shopping, social networking, and avoiding stressful situations as strategies.
- Unemployed people reported more stress than employed, with concerns about money being the chief source. Strategies for this group included watching TV and movies, listening to music, adjusting their expectations, and doing something active.
- Obese people reported trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle as more stressful than for other groups. They were also likely to use eating and sleeping as coping mechanisms, possibly making the problem worse.
There are plenty of strategies for managing stress, and reducing stress levels in one’s life.
Reducing stress levels might involve:
- Setting boundaries, and learning to say ‘no’ more often to demands.
- Downsizing both the home and the mortgage, or renting, if financial pressures are too great.
- Switching jobs, or reducing work hours.
- Taking on less volunteer work, if applicable.
- Lowering expectations of self and / or others.
- Regular exercise – this can increase endorphins, the ‘feel good’ hormones, and help release and relieve tension.
- Getting outside – some studies indicate that spending time around plants and trees can actually reduce blood pressure and feelings of stress and promote wellbeing.
- Good nutrition – it is more difficult to deal with stressful situations if a person is eating poorly and isn’t properly nourished. Poor diet can also increase the level of stress hormones and lead to fatigue.
- Good quality sleep – sleep improvements can be achieved by taking time to relax before going to bed, such as by having a relaxing warm bath, reading an enjoyable book, and avoiding watching the news or browsing the internet.
- Relaxation and calming exercises – such as this quick coherence technique from the HeartMath Institute.
- Changing thought patterns about the situation – it’s well known that the brain is neuroplastic, which basically means it can form new pathways and synapses through new thoughts and behaviours. There are many methods to help people change their thinking – such as thought replacement, the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), Psych-K, and mindfulness meditation – which appears to shrink the Amygdala or ‘stress centre’ of the brain after several weeks of practice.
- Professional treatment – if trying to cope with stress leads to anxiety or panic disorders, depression, or PTSD, professional help might need to be sought. Helpful treatments include counselling, psychotherapy, hypnosis, or Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR), which has been shown to be a very effective treatment for trauma.