Stress is a state of emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances. The body reacts to these changes with physical, mental and emotional responses.
Feelings of stress are normally triggered by the following:
- Being under pressure
- Facing a big change
- Not having much or any control over a situation
- Having responsibilities that are overwhelming
- Times of uncertainty
- Build-up of lots of small pressures
Stress can be positive and without it, humankind wouldn’t have survived. We need stress to keep us alert and ready to avoid danger, this is known as the ‘flight or fight’ response, where our bodies release hormones called cortisol and adrenaline to react quickly. However, it becomes a negative when someone is constantly stressed without relief, producing high levels of these hormones which can make you feel physically unwell, on an emotional level too, and even affecting long term health.
Signs of stress include:
- Upset stomach
- Difficultly sleeping
- Over eating/not eating
- Elevated blood pressure
- Chest pain – rapid heart rate
- Skin problems/outbreaks
- Frequent colds or infections
Emotional signs of stress:
- Becoming easily agitated, frustrated and moody
- Feeling overwhelmed, feeling of losing control or need to take control.
- Difficultly relaxing and quieting the mind
- Feeling bad about yourself, low self-esteem, lonely, worthless and depressed
- Avoiding others
There are many ways to manage stress. Some include managing external pressures to reduce stress levels in the first place and another way is to develop emotional resilience so that you become better at coping with tough situations. Looking after your wellbeing is one way of doing this. It is not just about having the ability to bounce back but also the ability to adapt in the face of challenging circumstances.
The best ways to achieve this are by making lifestyle changes, looking after your physical health, taking a break and building a support network around you.
Stress management tips:
- Keeping a positive attitude
- Accepting that there are events that you cannot control
- Try not to take on too much– say ‘no’ before taking on too many commitments to keep stress manageable
- Eat well balanced meals every day
- Take time to yourself to think and breathe before reaching breaking point
- Meditation/Mindfulness – try it when you start to feel stressed or as a preventative measure for 5-10 minutes a day.
- Deep breathing – stress causes shallow breathing. By slowing it down and breathing from your diaphragm, it helps to relax the body
- Listening to music can transform moods, lower heart rate and anxiety and can let out feelings of frustration
- Learning to manage time effectively can reduce pressures and lower stress
- Daily exercise increases feel good endorphins and calms the mind. Exercise uses up stress hormones that the body makes when stressed.
- Yoga allows the body to relax and breathe deeply. Plus backbends also decrease levels of cortisol in the body.
- Getting enough sleep to recover and destress
- Fresh air – going for a walk/run outside can help calm the mind and let out stress
- Talking over a cup of tea – letting your feelings out is crucial for good mental health. Having a cup of tea is the best way to calm down and talk. Plus black/green tea have calming effects on stress hormones in the body.
- Don’t rely on alcohol, drugs or compulsive behaviours to reduce stress
- Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a talking therapy that can help you manage your problems by changing the way you think and behave. For more information click here.
For further resources visit:
NHS stress busters
NHS audio guides
Take a look at Mind for further information on stress management.