What is Stress?
Stress can be described as feeling tense, worried, or overloaded. We feel stressed when it seems like we are not coping with life. Strictly speaking, stress is made up of two things: stressors and strain.
- Stressors are events, circumstances or situations that impact you in some way.
- Strain is the way you respond to the stressor and is what we usually refer to as ‘stress’.
We all experience stress at times. Sometimes it is useful – it can motivate us to complete tasks, or do them well. Unfortunately, stress can also be damaging especially if it becomes overwhelming and stops us cope with our normal life.
The level of stress a person feels depends a great deal on their attitude to a particular situation. Experiencing stress is part of being alive. We all need a little bit of stress to motivate us and spur us on. However, too much stress, especially over a long period of time, can take its toll on your health and wellbeing. There are many ways to manage stress including identifying your triggers, relaxation techniques, lifestyle changes and seeking support from others and it is just about finding the right strategy for you. If you are feeling like you are unable to cope with stress, you should get advice from a counsellor or other health professional.
The effects of stress
Stress affects us in many ways, including:
- Emotionally – leading to anxiety, depression or anger
- The way we think – causing poor concentration, indecisiveness or hopelessness
- Behaviourally – such as increased drinking and smoking, sleep issues or weight problems
When we feel under stress, our body responds to deal with the threat – our heartbeat, breathing and blood pressure increase. The longer we feel this stress, the greater the demand is on our body. There is growing evidence that recurring or long lasting stress may contribute to physical illness. Untreated stress can also sometimes lead to more serious difficulties, such as an anxiety disorder or depression.
How Can We Manage Stress?
Dealing with and overcoming stress is easier if we lead a healthy lifestyle and
- Exercise regularly
- Avoid conflict
- Practise relaxation
- Eat well
- Establish routines
- Monitor our self-talk
- Enjoy life and maintain balance
When we experience stress, we can deal with it more effectively if we understand our stressors and our resulting reactions by
- Exploring what situations make you feel stressed – Identify warning signs
- Understanding what situations you can and can’t control – Identify triggers
- Prepare for stressful events in advance,
- Keeping healthy through nutrition, exercise and relaxation
- Making time to do happy things every day
- Spending time with family for friends
Causes of Stress
Stress can be caused by external situations or events, or by our beliefs, principles or outlooks. Circumstances that cause stress affect different people in different ways. One of the biggest causes of stress is change, be it through normal life events or unexpected events.
Causes of stress can include:
- Relationship problems
- Work or study pressures
- Traumatic events
- Financial problems
- Concerns about life direction
- Job loss or insecurity
- Pressures from competing demands
Everyone responds to stress differently depending on, among other things, personality, cultural background, social circumstances, past experiences, stage of life and support networks.
Symptoms of Stress
The symptoms of stress may include:
- Headaches and other aches and pains
- Sleep disturbances
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Lack of confidence
- Overeating or under eating
- Relationship problems
- Lack of motivation
- Difficulty concentrating
- Change in eating habits
- Increased use of alcohol or other drugs
Seeking professional help
You should seek help if you experience high levels of stress that continue over a long period of time or interfere with you enjoying a healthy life. Seeking help is very important and can be an effective way to manage your stress effectively