Stress refers to an individuals reaction to being put under pressure. For us human beings, it is totally normal to encounter stress on a daily basis. Only the other day I was stressed rushing about the house trying to find something. I then proceeded to step on a plug which definitely didn’t help the situation, leading to a string of expletives rolling out my mouth (sorry mum!).
Although in some situations, stress can be useful as it can motivate action (like a flight or fright response), the charity Rethink Mental illness suggests that too much of it can also make us ill. But when is the amount of stress an issue? Obviously, different people can handle varying amounts of stress, but below is a list of indicators and symptoms of stress to look out for.
- Sleep issues – Some individuals may feel tired all the time, while others may have difficulties with being able to sleep.
- Headaches – Constant stress can also cause some individuals to have headaches or migraines.
- Changes in thought patterns – Those experiencing extreme or long periods of stress may start to feel depressed or even experience suicidal thoughts.
- Changes in behaviour – The feelings of stress can feel overwhelming and lead to an otherwise calm individual becoming irritable or aggressive towards themselves or others. The sense of dread that stress can create can also lead to an individual losing their sense of humour, as they struggle to cope with the burden.
- Feelings of anxiety – Stress is often associated with nervous feelings and anxiety. For example, the stress of preparing for an exam can make an individual feel nervous to complete it.
- Loss of interest – Stress can also make individuals feel a loss of interest in their relationships and hobbies.
- Restlessness – Struggling with stress can lead an individual to constantly worry, which can result in restlessness or fidgeting (such as nail biting).
- Indecisiveness – Some may find it difficult to make decisions due to the constant worry that they feel.
- Lifestyle changes – Some may cope with stress by engaging in unhealthy behaviours, such as drinking too much or taking drugs.
Stress can have the ability to interfere with and influence an individuals physical and mental well-being. Exposure to prolonged amounts of stress can contribute to a number of health issues. These issues can include, the development of mental illness, weakening of the immune system or the worsening of current health conditions such as asthma.
If you find yourself able to relate to the points explained above, you may need help and support for your stress. Luckily there’s a lot of information and support online, which I think would be a great first port of call. Here’s a list of resources on stress and forms of self-help which I hope are useful:
Mood juice – This is a great in depth self-help book. You can print it out and complete the exercises that aim to identify and challenge the sources of your stress.
What is stress? – Another detailed guide on stress and its causes by the UK charity Mind.
Stressbusting– This website has an extensive list of treatments for stress and how they work, from yoga to mindfulness
Stress management society – This website has a stress test, to indicate your current levels of stress and whether they are dangerously high. They have so many resources here to help manage your stress, including free guides and printable colouring books.
As it’s mental health awareness week, I think there’s no better time to raise awareness of stress and the effect too much of it can have on our wellbeing. It’s important to keep checking in with yourself and how you are feeling each day. If you are feeling overwhelmed it may be time to take a step back, identify the sources of your stress and reach out for support (whether this be from yourself or others).