We all know what it’s like to feel stressed, but it’s not easy to narrow down exactly what stress means. When we say things like “this is stressful” or “I’m stressed”, we might be talking about:
- Situations or occurrences that put pressure on us – for example, times where we have lots of task to carry out and think about, or don’t have much control over happenings.
- Our reaction to being placed under pressure – the feelings we get when we have high demands placed on us that we find difficult to cope with
The simple Biochemistry of Stress
You might find that your first clues about being stressed are physical signs, like fatigue, random headaches or a stomach upset.This could be because when we are stressed emotionally, our bodies release hormones called cortisol and adrenaline. This is the body’s automatic way of preparing to respond to a threat (sometimes called the ‘fight or flight’response). If you’re often stressed then you’re probably producing high levels of these hormones, which can make you feel physically unwell and could affect your health in the longer term.
What are the signs of stress?
We all experience stress differently in different situations. Sometimes you might be able to tell right away when you’re feeling under stress, but other times you might keep going without recognising the signs. Stress can affect you both emotionally and physically, and it can affect the way you behave.
Common signs of stress
How you might feel:
- Irritable, aggressive,
- impatient and over-burdened
- anxious, nervous or afraid
- like your thoughts are racing and
- uninterested in life
- like you’ve lost your sense of
- worried about your health
- unable to enjoy yourself
What causes stress?
Feelings of stress are normally triggered by things happening in your life which involve:
- being under lots of pressure
- facing big changes
- worrying about something
- not having much or any control over the outcome of a situation
- having responsibilities that you’re finding overwhelming
- •not having enough work, activities or change in your life.
Tips to deals with Stress
There might be one big thing causing you stress, but stress can also be caused by a build-up of small challenges. This might make it harder for you to identify what’s making you feel stressed, or to explain it to other people.
- Give yourself a break
Learning to be kinder to yourself in general can help you control the amount of pressure you feel in different situations, which can help you feel less stressed.
- Reward yourself for achievements – even small things like finishing a piece of work or making a decision. You could take a walk, read a book, treat yourself to food you enjoy, or simply tell yourself “well done”.
- Get a change of scenery. You might want to go outside, go to a friend’s house or go to a café for a break – even if it’s just for a short time.
- Take a break or holiday. Time away from your normal routine can elp you relax and feel refreshed. Even spending a day in a different place can help you feel more able to face stress.
- Resolve conflicts, if you can. Although this can sometimes be hard, speaking to a manager, colleague or family member about problems in your relationship with them can help you find ways to move forward.
- Forgive yourself when you make a mistake, or don’t achieve something you hoped for. Try to remember that nobody’s perfect, and putting extra pressure on yourself doesn’t help.