WHAT IS STRESS?

Stress is something we all experience. It can be considered a normal reaction to external pressures. However, whilst a small amount of stress can motivate us, too much or prolonged stress can be damaging to our physical and mental health. It typically stems from pressure within ourselves or others- and if we are unable to deal with this, we feel stress. The effects of stress will differ from person to person but if left unchecked can cause illness.

Stress arises from our body’s flight or fight response, which was an adapted response to improve survival rates on sensing danger in caveman days. On sensing threatening situations the body releases chemicals that causes our heart rate to increase and then releases energy stores that prepare our body to fight or flee. These days we rarely encounter such threatening situations but our bodies continue to react in this way when we are under pressure. The resultant build up of chemicals raises our blood pressure and can weaken our immune system. These chemicals over time can lead to mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression.


SYMPTOMS OF STRESS

  • Struggling to sleep
  • Feeling agitated, frustrated or angry
  • Feeling anxious, tense or on edge
  • Being fidgety or restless
  • Having low self esteem
  • Avoiding people and social situations
  • Having a compromised immune system
  • An increase in our heart rate and blood pressure
  • Palpitations and chest pains
  • Tummy pain and digestive problems
  • Reliance on smoking, alcohol or street drugs.

Most stressful situations can be associated with either a perceived lack of control or difficulty managing change. Even if a change is positive, it can still be stressful, Some of us have better coping skills for managing stress than others. There are many causes of stress but they can include; family and relationship issues, exams, a heavy workload, loss of someone you love, giving birth and financial issues amongst many others.

The issue with stress is that it exists as a problem that can propagate itself and over time can lower your ability to cope. Stress needs to be managed properly or it will continue to take over your life. The sooner you seek help the better. You should be seeking help if it begins to dominate your life, affects your physical health or affects others around you.


WAYS TO TREAT STRESS

  • Regular exercise
  • Meditation or Relaxation Therapy
  • Quit smoking
  • Reduce alcohol intake
  • Good nights sleep (alcohol will be detrimental to quality sleep)
  • Healthy eating
  • Speak to a therapist- Therapies such as Counselling, Psychotherapy and Mindfulness are best for dealing with stress. Talking to a professional about the difficulties you are experiencing can help you to understand any underlying problems that may be causing your stress- such as low self esteem. Working with a therapist will help you identify your personal stress triggers and find ways of coping.
  • Seeing your doctor if your physical health is suffering