Stress is what you feel when you are under a lot of pressure
All kinds of things can cause stress – money problems, work or relationships with family members.
It can be caused by major events like moving house, going through a divorce of unemployment; or it can be caused by minor events that irritate you like dealing with difficult people or feeling undervalued at work. But it’s not always so obvious as to what the cause is.
Sometimes stress can be positive, believe it or not. According to research, a moderate level of stress makes you perform better and so, helps in certain situations like job interviews or presentations. Some people thrive on the excitement that comes with stress in extreme sports however this is short-lived stress. Long term stress can cause physical, emotional and mental illness. That being said, you could say that stress can be, quite literally, a killer.
Your body releases chemicals when under stress. These chemicals produce adrenaline, raise your blood pressure, increase your heart rate and increase your level of perspiration. It’s your body’s way of helping you to fight or run away. But when you’re stuck on a busy bus or working in an office, you can’t do those things. The chemicals your body has produced to help you aren’t used. When these chemicals are released frequently, it can cause symptoms like headaches, nausea, and more perspiration and in long term, you could be putting yourself at risk of suffering a stroke or heart attack.
Emotionally, you may start to feel things like anxiety, fear, anger or depression. These feelings effect your body and so, you may think you are suffering from a serious physical health condition. And this of course, will only add to your levels of stress.
You can also experience behavioural changes. For example, you might drink more to help you sleep. You might stop exercising or seeing your friends. This can lead to feeling irritable and more frustrated.
Who is affected?
We can all relate to these feelings and I too have felt anxious or stressed a some point. However, stress affects some more than others.
According to research, 12 million people a year see their doctor in the UK about their mental health. For some of us, just getting out of the house might be a very stressful task however some people are more relaxed about it and cope with their stress levels differently.
What can you do?
The first step in battling stress is to recognise that it’s affecting you. It’s very easy to ignore the symptoms but if left for too long, they can cause great illness. For example, if you find yourself getting angry, take a five minute walk, go get a glass of water, this allows for you to relax and take your mind off what’s irritating you.
Learning to relax is a key element in avoiding or reducing stress, this can be done by controlling your breathing. Taking deep breaths for a few minutes can help control your heart rate and make you feel calm.
If you realise that you are suffering from stress, the next step would be to recognise what is causing the stress. It’s also important to make lifestyle changes that can help like having a healthy diet. This can help improve your overall physical health and reduce stress. This can be something as simple as cutting down on smoking, alcohol and coffee (as a lot of caffeine can cause similar symptoms as stress).
In terms of exercise, it’s very easy to engage in it because even walking to shops instead of driving is classed as exercise. Something as simple as this can make a great difference.
It’s also vital to have time set aside for yourself so that you can do something you enjoy whether it’s enjoying an evening walk, reading a book or taking a relaxing bath.
If you feel that you cannot manage your stress on your own, do not be afraid in seeking the help of professionals. People are usually hesitant towards seeking help as it may seem as if it is some form of admitting defeat but this is not the case, it can be the first step towards things getting better. CBT therapy and mindfulness is well-known for being very effective when it comes to managing stress.