What is stress?
Stress can be a good thing. It can motivate you to work hard and tackle life’s obstacles. But too much stress can leave you feeling overwhelmed and struggling to function. As the signs of stress are varied, you may not even realise how stressed you are until it becomes a problem.
High levels of stress are common. According to the Mental Health Foundation, 74% of people in the UK say they feel unable to cope because of stress they have faced throughout the year.
Could your stress levels be too high? Here’s how to work out just how stressed you are.
What are the symptoms of stress?
From a pounding heart to clammy hands, stress can cause many unpleasant sensations. In most cases, these feelings disappear once the source of stress has passed. But if they don’t go away or develop into something worse, you may be suffering from excessive stress.
Stress can lead to physical and emotional symptoms, but it’s not always easy to spot when stress is making you ill if you aren’t familiar with its lesser-known symptoms. We all react differently to stress, but there are a few red flags to look out for.
Emotional and psychological signs of stress:
- feeling overwhelmed or overburdened
- being irritable, aggressive or impatient
- feeling anxious, nervous or fearful
- having low self-esteem
- having difficulty controlling your thoughts or experiencing ‘racing thoughts’
- having difficulty concentrating
- finding it harder to make decisions
People under severe stress may experience suicidal thoughts or behaviours. Speak to a doctor if you think you may be affected by this.
Physical signs of stress:
- muscle pain or tension
- trouble sleeping (e.g.nightmares or finding it hard to fall or stay asleep)
- constantly feeling tired
- eating too much or not enough
Behavioural signs of stress
- drinking or smoking more than you used to
- losing patience with others more quickly
- avoiding triggers of stress (e.g. certain people or situations)
What causes stress?
Stress can be triggered by many things, including significant life changes or situations that feel out of your control. These may be related to your work or studies, family life, health, housing or finances.
The triggers of stress aren’t always negative. It’s perfectly normal to feel stressed or overwhelmed by positive occasions, like a wedding or a new baby. Such life events may bring new demands or challenges that you don’t feel equipped to deal with. And even if you aren’t undergoing any drastic life changes, the accumulation of smaller pressures may affect you. For example, a habit that takes up too much of your time or affects your health can lead to more stress in the long run.
While you may feel tempted to avoid the stress in your life, it’s important that you try to deal with it, otherwise it can cause more problems later on.
Do you think you’re stressed?
So, could you be more stressed than you realised? Future articles in this series will help you to manage your stress better.
In the meantime, you can download our app and use the mood tracker to get a more accurate idea of how stress might be affecting you.