What is stress?
It is not uncommon for people to say they are feeling “stressed” at some time or another. Psychologically speaking, stress is not only very healthy but also one of the basic parts of learning and growth. Because that base level of stress is such a normal part of being human, not many of us would even notice it on a daily basis. So when we say we are feeling “stressed” it usually means we are feeling higher levels of stress than what is healthy and productive.
When most people say they are stressed, they are often referring to that feeling of being overwhelmed by our work or life situation or that being tense and wound up, leading to sometimes overreacting to what would otherwise be fairly ‘normal’ situations.
Psychologists and other health professionals know that too much stress over a prolonged period can be both mentally and physically harmful, often impeding our ability to get on with what we have to do. That, in turn, can lead to more stress and a very unhelpful cycle that can sometimes be hard to break.
Recognising the signs of Stress
Being able to recognise the build-up of stress and identifying early warning signs is a great start to changing the triggers and managing stress.
Of course, this is very individual and as such, the warning signs vary from one person to the next but here are a few of the most commonly reported signs of stress:
- Tensing your jaw
- Feeling irritable
- Not sleeping soundly
- Feeling restless
- Tightness in the chest
- A racing heartbeat
- Not being efficient in managing tasks
- Too many thoughts racing through your head
- Upset stomach and digestive problems
- Heart and high blood pressure issues
Being able to recognise “what stresses” you goes a long way to managing your sense of being overwhelmed and not being able to cope. Like the symptoms of too much stress, things that trigger you are different for everyone, but some of the most widely reported issues include:
- Deadlines and work issues
- Certain people (toxic relationships at work, friends)
- Too many late nights, not enough sleep
- Difficult family situations (children, ageing parents, relationship issues)
- Unhealthy lifestyle (not eating well, not exercising)
- No personal time/down time
Techniques to help manage unusual stress
Although you might not feel like anything can help, psychologists have some relatively simple tools and techniques that can be used to effectively alleviate some of this stress. The key to getting on top of stress is to tackle it early with a commitment to tweak your lifestyle – to make an effort and if necessary, get some professional help to help guide you trough the changes you might need to make.
Here are a few steps to consider taking in your journey toward a less stressful life:
- Identify your warning signs – what happens to your body/mood when you start to get too stressed?
- Identify triggers and prepare yourself – be aware of people/situations that push your buttons and avoid them. Also, ensuring you get enough sleep and exercise helps your body and mind cope with the occasional, temporary extra stress that life sometimes throws at us all.
- Consider creating some tighter routines – reducing a sense of chaos can instil a sense of control and order in your life, especially when everything else is going crazy
- Spend more time with people who are important to you, who care about you and who are uplifting – and perhaps less time with those who are negative and demanding
- Don’t bottle up your feelings – find a network of support and share your thoughts and concerns. The adage “a problem shared (with the right person) is a problem halved” goes a long way to seeing perspective and regaining control over you emotions
- Look after your health – this means watch what you eat and reduce your alcohol intake (a glass shared with a supportive friend is not excessive!), take time to walk and exercise, listen to uplifting music and enjoy the good, quiet moments
- Positive self-talk – remind yourself of what you can do not what you can’t do. Concentrate on your strengths and tell yourself so!
- Practise relaxation – learn some “mindfulness” techniques. Simple breathing strategies before starting a meeting. Breathe in and out before replying to people who are “triggers”, stop and sip your tea as opposed to gulping a mouthful (see our other articles about stress for tips, tricks and links)
- Practise some feel good activities – gardening, reading and sharing time with supportive people are all great ways to relax and unwind.
Finally, remember that sometimes everyone needs to reach out to professionals who can offer more directed strategies to manage your stress level, your lifestyle and your perspective on the stressors of life. It’s no sign of weakness or failure to ask an accountant to help with complex tax issues, or a builder for your next house – so why would anyone think that asking a specialist to help with our incredibly complex minds would be anything other than just plain smart?
Revive Health and Happiness has a team of psychologists who are all well experienced in dealing with stress and anxiety and have a variety of strategies to help and support you in managing stress that is getting out of control or of course, anything else that is troubling you or your loved ones. Contact our friendly team now to talk about how we can help.