Stress awareness month – A simple guide to stress

What is stress?

Stress is something that almost all of us have experienced. Although everyone can be affected by stress, it commonly varies from person to person. Often stemming from a sense of lacking control over a situation, the disparity in what people find stressful can be precisely where the stigma grows. For some people, leaving the house on time for work can be an incredibly stressful experience, whereas others won’t be nearly as affected. The key here, like with many things, is that we’re all different.

How to identify if you’re overstressed

It’s essential to know some of the indicators of stress to help you identify when you’re becoming overwhelmed and take actions to help manage and reduce those feelings. Being stressed can alter multiple things, from your general mood to how you’re physically feeling.

Some of these symptoms can include feeling:

  • Anxious
  • Depressed
  • Frustrated
  • Irritable
  • Angry

As a result of these, your body can react in different ways, meaning you can also experience:

  • Headaches
  • Sweating
  • Heart palpitations
  • Nausea
  • Aches and pains

Can stress be beneficial?

Despite common belief, stress can have an array of benefits to help us in day-to-day situations and extreme scenarios.

According to experts, when the body experiences stress, it reacts to motivate your brain towards obtaining goals more efficiently, in some instances even improving short term memory while activated. At its most basic level, stress is a survival mechanism. Therefore, when our body receives a stress signal it begins releasing chemicals like epinephrine and cortisol which increase blood pressure and your heart rate; this is where the increase in focus comes from. It can also help in more physically challenging situations similar to adrenaline to protect you from dangerous situations perceived by your mind.

As with all things in life, though, too much of something good can be harmful. This is precisely the case with stress (and chocolate!). Typically, we’re taking on too much too often, which is where a negative feedback loop starts.

How can we manage stress?

Now you know that stress can offer both positives and negatives, the next step is laying out some ways to help manage and reduce it.

  1. Identify why you’re stressed.

Knowing the problem is always step one to solving it. By breaking down how you’re feeling (using some of the indicators mentioned above), you can take the first step to understand why you’re feeling this way. You’ll often feel better just by mapping things out and recognising the contributing factors.

  1. Take action (where you can)

One of the leading causes of stress is the sense of lacking control over a situation. Once you’ve identified what is causing your stress, you can begin to take more control by breaking the issue into smaller chunks and outlining any steps you’re able to action – however small they might seem. This will make the issue feel more manageable and help engage your brain’s reward system to release a chemical called dopamine, easing some stress symptoms.

  1. Accept we can’t change everything

The nature of lacking control means that you can’t always fix the situation completely. A difficult step in this scenario is accepting that some things are out of your hands. Instead, try and focus on what you can affect and relieve yourself of some burden by acknowledging we can’t control every outcome.

  1. Share the load

Stress is one of the most common issues with mental health that we all share. While the difference in what causes us stress can often be where stigma creeps in, this can actually be our biggest strength. For the simple reason, you’ll find something more manageable, which someone else finds more difficult, and vice versa. This means if we can work more collaboratively, supporting each other during our low points, we can ensure no one is ever carrying that load alone.

Let’s break the stigma, let’s be better together.

 

Useful links for more tips on managing stress:


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