WHAT IS STRESS?
Stress is a normal human reaction that happens to everyone. In fact, the human body is designed to experience stress and react to it. When you experience changes or challenges (stressors), your body produces physical and mental responses. That’s stress.
Stress responses help your body adjust to new situations. Stress can be positive, keeping us alert, motivated and ready to avoid danger. For example, if you have an important test coming up, a stress response might help your body work harder and stay awake longer. But stress becomes a problem when stressors continue without relief or periods of relaxation.
What makes us stressed?
There are many things that can lead to stress. The death of a loved one, divorce/separation, losing a job and unexpected money problems are among the top ten causes of stress according to one recent survey. But not all life events are negative and even positive life changes, such as moving to a bigger house, gaining a job promotion or going on holiday can be sources of stress.
When someone is stressed, they may experience many different feelings, including anxiety, fear, anger, sadness, or frustration. These feelings can sometimes feed on each other and produce physical symptoms, making the person feel even worse. For some people, stressful life events can contribute to symptoms of depression. Work-related stress can also have negative impacts on mental health.
When someone is stressed they may behave differently. For example, someone may become withdrawn, indecisive or inflexible. They may not be able to sleep properly. One may be irritable or tearful. Some people may resort to smoking, consuming more alcohol, or taking drugs. Stress can make people feel angrier or more aggressive than normal. Stress may also affect the way people interact with their close family and friends.
When stressed, some people start to experience headaches, nausea and indigestion. They may breathe more quickly, perspire more, have palpitations or suffer from various aches and pains. They will quickly return to normal without any negative effects if what is stressing them is short-lived, and many people are able to deal with a certain level of stress without any lasting adverse effects. If someone experiences stress repeatedly over a prolonged period, they may notice their sleep and memory are affected, their eating habits may change, etc.
Who is affected?
All of us can probably recognize at least some of the feelings described above and may have felt stressed and overwhelmed at some time or another. Some people seem to be more affected by stress than others. For some people, getting out of the door on time each morning can be a very stressful experience. Whereas others may be able to cope with a great deal of pressure.
Some groups of people may be more likely to experience stressful life events and situations than others. For example, people living with high levels of debt or financial insecurity are more likely to experience stress related to money, people from minority ethnic groups or those who are LGBTQ+ may be more likely to experience stress due to prejudice, or discrimination, and people with pre-existing or ongoing health problems may be more likely to experience stress related to their health, or stress due to stigma associated with their condition.
How can you help yourself?
If you feel comfortable, talking to you can trust about your feelings can help you manage your stress. However, sometimes individual actions on their own are not enough to reduce long-term stress for everyone. We can often be affected by factors that are beyond our direct control. Communities, workplaces, societies, and governments all have a role to play in tackling these wider causes of stress.
There are some actions that you can take as an individual to manage the immediate, sometimes unpleasant, signs of stress and identify, reduce, and remove stressful factors that may cause you to feel overwhelmed and unable to cope...
Realize when it is causing a problem and identify the causes
Review your lifestyle
Build supportive relationships
Take time out (self-care)
Get some restful sleep
Don't be too hard on yourself