Stress and how to manage it
There is no medical definition for stress although we all have our own idea of what it means. When we think of stress, this is mostly a negative association – stress has a bad reputation! Stress or pressure is a normal part of life; we all need a certain amount of stress (positive stress) to function effectively and to flourish. A certain level of stress can assist us with motivation and energy to take action, to accomplish personal and professional goals.
Sometimes we can feel the pressure of certain situations, and we can feel stressed as a result of trying to cope with the pressure. Big life changes often create stress, even happy events like moving house, having a baby or planning a wedding. Stress can also occur if a person does not feel in control of the events in their life, such as the loss of a close friend or family member, being made redundant or being diagnosed with a health condition or illness.
Stress is not a psychiatric diagnosis, but it is closely linked to our mental health. Our mental health can be impacted as a result of prolonged stress, and can be seen through the development of conditions such as anxiety or depression. It is also possible for existing mental health problems to cause stress as the person tries to cope with related symptoms, medication management and management of appointments.
When does stress become an issue?
So when does stress turn into a problem and when is the right time to take action? Each person has a different stress threshold. Whilst one person may thrive off pressure, the next may find it all too overwhelming. Stress can become a problem if you feel overwhelmed by pressure.
The NHS outline some associated symptoms of stress in terms of how we can feel emotionally, mentally and physically, and also how we behave.
How you may feel emotionally:
- Irritable and 'wound up'.
- Anxious or fearful.
- Lacking in self-esteem.
How you may feel mentally:
- Racing thoughts.
- Constant worrying.
- Difficulty concentrating.
- Difficulty making decisions.
How you may feel physically:
- Muscle tension or pain.
- Sleep problems.
- Feeling tired all the time.
- Eating too much or too little.
How you may behave:
- Drinking or smoking more.
- Snapping at people.
- Avoiding things or people you are having problems with.
How to tackle stress
It is possible to keep stress levels positive by monitoring and responding to any negative feelings before they become overwhelming. This can be done by reducing and managing pressures, finding balance by making enough time to be you, and taking time out to help you cope.
Addressing the causes of stress is important - avoiding problems rather than facing them can make things worse. If it is not possible to change a stressful situation, acceptance of the situation can help. Accept that there is nothing you can do to change the situation, refocus your energy elsewhere and even look for opportunities or positives from the situation.
It is not always possible to prevent stress completely, but there are lots of things you can do to manage it. Each person is different, therefore there is no 'one size fits all' solution, but you can try different methods to see which suits you:
- Make time to socialise and engage in hobbies.
- Eat healthily and take regular exercise.
- Get enough sleep.
- Practice relaxation techniques such as abdominal breathing or progressive muscle relaxation.
- Take regular breaks and book a holiday when needed.
- Practice meditation or mindfulness.
- Download a relaxation app.
- Learn time management techniques.
- Share your problems with friends and family.
- Try counselling, CBT, life coaching or hypnotherapy.
- Visit your GP where necessary.
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