Home Opinion Stress Awareness Month; Spotting the signs and finding solutions 

Stress Awareness Month; Spotting the signs and finding solutions 

Author: Lucie Ironman, Psychological Wellbeing Facilitator, Vita Health Group.

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Millions of people around the UK experience high levels of stress year on year. Not only is this increased stress impacting our mental health, but it is also impacting our physical health too. For instance, stress has been linked to heart disease, problems with our immune system, insomnia and digestive problems. 

That being said, stress is completely normal and not always a bad thing. More than likely, you will have heard of the flight or fight response, this is actually stress. 

 

Fight or flight. 

 

Fight or flight is how the body protect itself and gets ready for harmful situation. When we feel threatened, a chemical reaction occurs in our body that allows us to act in a way to prevent injury. Many physiological changes happen during a stress response, your heart rate increases, breathing rate quickens, muscles tighten, and blood pressure rises. This is your body’s natural way of getting ready to protect itself and prepare you to either fight or escape the threat.   

 

But remember, not all stress is bad. Stress could be the one thing that saves you, for instance, allowing you to slam the brakes on a car to avoid a fatal collision. We can cope well the small bursts of stress however long-term stress can have a negative impact on our health and well-being.  

 

One of the best ways to control stress is to recognise the signs and symptoms. But detecting the symptoms may be more challenging than most of us think. Many of us are so used to being stressed in our daily lives we often don’t realise how stressed we are until reach a breaking point. And of course by this stage it’s often too late. 

 

Spotting the signs. 

When you’re under a great deal of stress, you may find that you’re more emotional than usual, or get angry at the smallest things. 

Some of the signs of stress to look out for in yourself include, anxiety or nervousness, anger or irritability, difficulty concentrating or forgetfulness, depression or low mood, fatigue, difficulty sleeping, tearfulness, lack of confidence, lack of motivation, a change in eating habits or appetite and an increase in alcohol or drug use. 

Stress hormones also have an effect on your body too. There are some physical signs to watch out for, muscular tension, headache, tense jaw, teeth grinding, increased perspiration, stomach-ache, increased blood pressure and heart rate, a dry mouth, skin rashes and constipation.  

 

Three simple tips to reduce stress today.

  1. Get moving. Even a little regular exercise can help ease stress, boost your mood and energy, and improve your self-esteem. Aim for 30 minutes on most days, broken up into short 10-minute bursts if that’s easier.
  2. Practice a relaxation technique. Take time to relax each day and try to take a step outside of the thinking mind. Meditating, breathing exercises, or other relaxation techniques are excellent ways to relieve stress and restore some balance to your life.
  3. Don’t skimp on sleep. Feeling tired will only increase your stress and negative thought patterns. Finding ways to improve your sleep during this difficult time will help both your mind and body.

Cognitive reframing to reduce stress.

Don’t be put off by this term. Really ‘cognitive reframing’ is just another way of changing the way you look at something. Take for example when your heart is beating fast, your mouth is dry and when you have sweaty palms – instead of thinking of this as fear, you could instead reframe it to think about your body and your fight or flight response doing its job to keep you safe.

 

The frame through which we choose to look at something changes its meaning for us. Stress is present in all our lives, but depending on how we look at it, it can have a much greater or lesser impact. We often talk to ourselves in a way that we would never dream of talking to anyone else. Ask yourself, if a friend was feeling this way, what would you say to them?

 

It’s important to begin to recognise stress and it can be helpful to change the way we think about it and talk to ourselves. This can encourage you to believe in yourself more and feel more confident in managing the stress you’re experiencing. If it is too much to manage alone, don’t hesitate to reach out for support. Why not give it a try today?

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