What is Stress?
Stress is often described as a feeling of being overloaded, wound-up tight, tense and worried. We all experience stress at some time.
Stress can sometimes be helpful in motivating us to complete a task, or perform well at a particular activity, however stress can be harmful if we become over-stressed and it interferes with our ability to get on with our normal life.
When we are faced with a stressful event, our bodies respond by activating the nervous system and releasing hormones such as adrenalin and cortisol. This is called the ‘Flight or Fight” response and while the physical changes help us to react quickly and effectively to get through a stressful or dangerous situation, if the stress is ongoing and the physical changes don’t settle down, they can cause other physical or psychological symptoms.
Symptoms can include:
- Headaches, other aches and pains
- Sleep disturbance, insomnia
- High blood pressure
- Upset stomach, indigestion, diarrhoea
- Weakened immune system
- Heart disease
- Anger, irritability
- Feeling overwhelmed and out of control
- Feeling moody, tearful
- Difficulty concentrating
- Low self-esteem, lack of confidence
Learning to handle stress in healthy ways is essential as we cannot always avoid stress as it is a part of modern life. Fortunately however, there is much we can do to help learn techniques and strategies to reduce stress in our lives.
This includes recognising and changing the behaviours and our thinking that contribute to stress, as well as techniques for reducing stress when it occurs.
- Identifying physical warning signs such as tension or headaches
- Identifying triggers and stressors as they can be different for everyone
- Establishing healthy routines that include regular exercise, relaxation, eating, and sleep
- Reducing coffee, tobacco, alcohol, or drugs to cope
- Notice the self-talk that may be escalating your stress such as ‘I can’t cope’, or ‘it’s not fair’
Trying to increase helpful self-talk such as ‘I’m coping well given what’s on my plate’, or ‘just breathe, it’s not that bad.’ This helps to keep things in perspective
Do things that help you relax. Relaxation helps your body and nervous system to settle and readjust as it activates the ‘rest and digest’ part of our nervous system