In an online poll consisting of 4619 people conducted by YouGov.co.uk, 74% of respondents said they were “too stressed to cope”.
While there are other ways to spot stress creeping in, some are easier to detect than others, some of them are below:
Racing thoughts or constant worry.
Problems with your memory or concentration.
Making bad decisions.
Feeling overwhelmed, unmotivated, or unfocused
Loss of Appetite
Stress: What is stress and what causes it?
Contrary to the way we use the word “stress” in everyday life, stress when defined is not automatically a negative thing. Stress is just the response of the body to “fight or flight situations”.
Stress is the bodies way of reacting to any kind of threat – or better yet – any demand that is out of the ordinary – our bodies sense danger whether it’s real or imaginary – and the defense mechanism kicks into high gear and reacts to give a stress response, which we will talk about here.
The unspoken positives of stress include:
Heightened Focus: when working out, the stress pput on the body makes sure your mind is focused on finishing the next rep, or step, or take the next breath.
More Energy: hormones in your body direct attention to survival and all energy is sent to make sure the body has enough to survive the next few minutes or even seconds.
Sharpened concentration: when you have tight deadlines at work, stress makes sure your mind is clear and all concentration is directed to completing the task at hand.
Stress keeps you alert when you need it most. It differs from anxiety in that anxiousness is not a protective measure/response by the body and is a result or reaction to situations playing out in ones mind.
The thing is: modern life rarely calls for the types of situations we would have called “threats” a millenia ago.
The effects of stress
Following on from the previous point, our bodies generally can’t distinguish between real and perceived stress; its also pretty bad at sppotting the difference between emotional and physical stressors.
This means essentially, the reaction to an argument with a colleague or friend could have the same bodily response as running from a lion (maybe the first is a little more stressful.).
The problem with this is that if you tend to get stressed often, your body adapts to being in a heightened state of stress most of the time. Today’s’ word can be very demanding in a psycological sense, than ever before in history. The difference?
The real physical stressors were life and death whereas the psychological stressors of today are not exactly a danger to our existence, and therefore not as serious as they may seem.
Want more ways of reducing stress and getting better sleep?
Consequences of stress
While the origins of stress are in the brain, the reaction and consequences are very real and even physical.
- Health issues arising from stress:
- Thought and memory problems
- Sleep problems
- Random bodily pains
- Depression and anxiety
- Weight problems
- Digestive problems
- Heart disease
…to say the least.
Signs and symptoms of stress
Stress is not immediately noticeable; it can take a while to rear its ugly head clearly enough for the affected to notice. It creeps up on you like thief in the night and before you know it, you’re used to it; the feeling has settled in and you feel as though the stressed state is a normal state of mind. You may even have to take pause, examine your current situation to think about why you might be stressed.
It’s important to become aware of the common signs and symptoms to get in front of it. The common symptoms are often divided into 4 categories:
- Lack of concentration
- Negative outlook on life
- Increasing anxiety
- Constant worry
- Change in eating habits
- Sleeping too much/too little
- Social isolation
- Nervous habits; nail biting etc
- Increased use of alcohol/cigarettes/drugs to relax
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Irritability; emotional imbalances
- Easily agitated
- Increased heart rate/chest pain
- Low libido
- Onset of cold/flu like symptoms
Life events associated with stress
The highly regarded Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale lists these as the life events most often leading to stress:
5 Ways to Deal With Stress:
Any form of exercise is good enough to alleviate stress. Exercise gives the mind other things to do, and floods the body with feel-good hormones called endorphins which can do wonders for stress-management.
You can choose to do aerobic exercises or anaerobic depending on your taste, both give the same positive post-workout mental effects. The key is to be consistent, and to try get at least 1 hour per week.
Talk to a friend
We all take on a lot and think we can handle everything on our own. Today’s world is highly individual-driven, and this can lead to mental breakdowns due to the feeling of being overwhelmed and overburdened.
Sometimes all we need to do is let the noise in our heads out into the open – communication is key. Keeping things bottled up creates undue pressure on our minds and causes anxiety and worry about potentially imagined or exaggerated scenarios.
We often think we have to be productive 25 hours a day. Which yes, is actually impossible. The fact is we all have things we need to get done – but without proper rest and relaxation, we can’t do anything to the best of our abilities.
There are many ways to just…relax.
Breathing exercises: Taking deep slower breaths. One common method is to sit in a quiet place breathe in…count to 3, breathe out count to 3. Repeat as necessary.
Release physical tension: Stretching, laying down on a flat surface and “ironing out” your body which is likely to be cramped up in a seated position all day long.
Writing down your thoughts: This can help take things off your mind without having to discuss them with others if you don’t really want to. Write them down, and throw them away. The psychological effects of this are documented.
Visualisation: Imagine your calm place; focus on the sights and sounds associated with that place and try to involve all of your senses. This is something that can be heightened with meditation.
Getting high quality rest
As we’ve talked about on the NiteKite often, it’s not about long periods of sleep or relaxation – it’s about getting high quality rest, that truly lets you recover.
There are many home remedies you can try yourself: Deep Pressure Therapy, which uses weight applied to the body to invoke a “warm heavy hug” sensation”, or adjusting the colours in your room so they are conducive to calm.
Adopt a healthy diet
In today’s “now, now, now” society there is a misplaced emphasis on seeing results today here and now. While we have more information the implementation of it is lacking. Many people underestimate the importance of a healthy lifestyle.
Eating healthily can have serious compounding – positive – effects on your mental state. Such effects come from taking the time to change your eating habits rather than the expectation of instant results.
Foods to eat:
- Omega 3 fatty acids: fish (mackeral, salmon, cod liver oil), Other seafood (oysters, caviar)
- Complex carbs: Peas, beans, whole grains, vegetables
- High quality protein: red meats (in moderation) poultry, eggs, quinoa
Always consult a specialist when you feel symptoms out of the ordinary but it is always useful to change your routines and take rest every now and again especially when you feel mental strain of any kind.