I feel stressed! But what is it really?

Stress is not necessarily a bad thing. Without the ability to feel stress, humankind wouldn’t have survived.

Stress is primarily a physical response. When stressed, the body thinks it is under attack and switches to ‘fight or flight’ mode, releasing a complex mix of hormones and chemicals such as adrenaline, cortisol and norepinephrine to prepare the body for physical action. This causes a number of reactions, from blood being diverted to muscles to shutting down unnecessary bodily functions such as digestion.

The challenge is when our body goes into a state of stress in inappropriate situations. When blood flow is going only to the most important muscles needed to fight or flee, brain function is minimised. This can lead to an inability to ‘think straight’; a state that is a great hindrance in both our work and home lives. If we are kept in a state of stress for long periods, it can be detrimental to our health.

One of the difficulties with stress is that people experience stress in different ways. This contributes to stress manifesting itself differently. It would be wrong to over generalise when giving advice on how to identify stress in others, however because stress has negative effects, it will usually manifest itself one way or another.

Stress targets the weakest part of our physiology or character; if you are prone to headaches, this will flare up.  If you have low levels of patience or tolerance for others, this will be the first area to present under times of stress.

Stress isn’t avoidable but it is manageable. A key action in order to minimise risk is to identify stress-related problems as early as possible, so that action can be taken before serious stress-related illness occurs.

Here are a few signs that you may see in yourself and others which will help you start to take action. This may be speaking to a colleague, a friend or family member or a discussion with you GP. You aren’t alone and there is always someone to talk to who can help.

Source: The Stress Management Society

Things to look out for

  1. Inability to concentrate or starting many tasks but achieving little.
  2. Self doubt, indecision or feeling overwhelmed.
  3. Moodiness or irritability.
  4. Isolating yourself from others.
  5. Physical signs such as rapid heartbeat, aches, pains, colds, skin complaints, indigestion & high blood pressure.
  6. Sleeping too little or too much.

Useful links & resources

The Stress Management Society https://www.stress.org.uk/
The Stress Management Society is a non-profit organisation dedicated to helping individuals and companies recognise and reduce stress. Their website is full of information about stress and hints and tips to help you look after yourself and others.

Share this story