Being alive today is stressful. Therefore, it’s important to understand what stress is, know how you can identify when you’re feeling too stressed and learn what you can do to manage your stress.
What is stress? Stress is a term used to describe certain feelings or physical reactions to a real or perceived danger or demand. Your body is designed to respond to life-threatening events in predictable ways, your heart beats faster, your body produces the natural adrenaline, your breathing quickens, your blood pressure rises, your muscles tightens and you feel more alert. This is commonly known as the “flight/fight response.” It is very useful for avoiding a nasty bite or a painful bump because your body is energized and prepared to take quick action.
Some ways of thinking and/or acting can increase your level of stress. If you feel your well being is threatened, your body will respond the same as if the threat is actually there. Likewise, acting in certain ways (not getting enough sleep, eating solely “junk foods,” avoiding taking any actions about sources of stress, etc.) will generate additional physiological symptoms of stress.
A certain amount of stress can be motivating; it helps you better meet life’s challenges, but too much stress and/or the cumulative effects of smaller stressors can be debilitating; you feel helpless or paralyzed and want to give up or run away. Your body, mind and spirit are affected when pressures build up every day without release. Sometimes it is not so easy to reduce the amount of stress with which you have to cope!
What are the signs that stress is affecting you? / What are some ways I might respond when stressed?
Reponses include, but not limited to: headaches, neck aches, shoulder, or back aches, sleeping difficulties, stomach problems, diarrhoea, constipation, lowered resistance to illness, nail biting, procrastinating, smoking, grinding teeth, compulsive behaviours, abusing alcohol or drugs, eating disorders, decreased sexual drive. In addition nightmares, depression, anxiety, panic, difficulty concentrating, anger, pessimism, hyperactivity, worry, overreacting, indecision and resentment are other signs/symptoms of stress.
Learn to recognize your personal symptoms of stress so you know when action is required. While an adrenalin rush and increased blood pressure are symptoms of immediate stress, there are other symptoms of more chronic stress. These can be physiological, psychological and behavioural reactions.