Stress manifests itself differently for each one of us.
It is perfectly normal to feel pressure from time to time, but it is important not let this tip over into full-blown stress.
Sometimes it is hard to know that you are stressed when you are in the thick of it, but its negative effects can impact on so many areas of your life and health, that it is worth keeping an eye on your own stress levels and also those around you.
What exactly is stress?
There is no medical definition of stress, and whether it is the cause, or the result of problems is often not clear.1
This makes stress management quite challenging.
What we do know, is that when your body is under stress, your body releases hormones that raise your heart rate and blood pressure, preparing your body for “fight or flight”.
This was once really important for our survival and critical to keeping our hunter-gatherer ancestors alive.
But in our modern world, it could now be damaging our health.2
What are the signs of stress?
As we have seen, stress shows up differently all the time.
The changes observed in a stressed person can be cognitive, emotional, physical or behavioural, or a combination of all of these.
Here are some examples:3
Cognitive signs of stress:
- Memory problems
- Poor judgement
- Inability to concentrate
- ‘Brain fog’
- Starting many tasks but achieving little
Emotional signs of stress:
- Fatalistic thinking
- Feeling overwhelmed
Physical signs of stress:
- Chest pain
- Rapid heartbeat
- Aches and pains
- Frequent colds
- Skin complaints
- High blood pressure
Behavioural signs of stress:
- Increase intake in alcohol, cigarettes and caffeine to relax
- Isolating yourself from others
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Loss of sense of humour
How do I know if I need to better manage my stress?
Perhaps you have noticed some of the above signs of stress that have continued for an extended period, or a concerned friend has asked if you are okay.
It can be difficult to notice your own stress when you are in the middle of it, so taking a stress test, such as an online one from the Stress Management Society, can help you gauge your own stress levels.
Then you can start to find some stress management techniques that could work for you.4
What are the long-term effects of not managing stress?
Looking through the lists of cognitive, emotional, physical and behavioural signs of stress you will notice how experiencing these signs for a prolonged period could have a knock-on effect on your overall health.
This can also then have an impact on your work, home life, and your relationships with others.
See your GP if you are concerned about any of your symptoms.
Stress relief techniques
You may find some lifestyle changes help manage, or even prevent your stress symptoms.5
These could include exercising more, reducing your intake of alcohol, drugs, and caffeine, and eating a healthy balanced diet.
It can also help to manage your time and priorities with to-do lists and schedules, and focus on what you have achieved, as well as factoring in time to relax or do something that interests you.
Breathing and relaxation techniques can slow down the heart rate and promote relaxation, while sharing your feelings and concerns with a good listener can help reduce the feelings of overwhelm.
Keep an eye on the effects on your body, since sometimes you can be so anxious about the problem causing the stress that you do not notice its effects.
Looking for some stress busters that do not take any planning? It can be challenging to think about changing your diet or planning your time when you are overwhelmed with stress.
Check out our easy fixes to help calm your nervous system in seconds, with these instant stress busters, which can quickly help you gain perspective and work out your next steps.
There are also several traditional herbal remedies that are indicated for use for the relief of symptoms associated with stress.6 Check out our supplements and traditional herbal remedies for stress relief.
However you define stress, whether it is caused by a sudden life event or something more subtle, or perhaps it is in fact creating other issues for you, do not let it feed into a vicious cycle and impact further on other areas of your health and life.
Last updated: 29 October 2020