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I Feel Stressed

There are many factors in our lives that can cause stress. Things like work deadlines, financial troubles, congested traffic, and arguments can cause stress. Stress is a natural reaction, as the body tries to deal with any negative pressures placed on it. Stress can become a problem when these pressures become overwhelming, and in some cases, can be a precursor to anxiety disorders and depression.

Thankfully, stress is very manageable, and a little stress can even help you perform better. This is often seen in students when studying for exams, or in athletes as they prepare for competition. There are many ways to deal with stress, and simple techniques practiced frequently can really help. If you are feeling stressed, and would like to find out more, this information on stress is a great place to start.

What is Stress?

Stress can be defined as a response of the body to any demand placed on it. Stress can be influenced by both external and internal factors. Examples of external factors include work, relationships, and finances. Internal factors such as health, hunger, and amount of sleep can affect how people deal with situations in which they might otherwise have dealt competently.

Stress is a normal human experience and can be useful when dealing with demanding situations. For example, it can help us perform optimally when giving a speech or playing a sport, as seen by the curve.

What are the Signs of Stress?

The body deals with acute stress by releasing chemicals that tell the body that it is in danger, and therefore activates the flight or fight response. This response is a survival mechanism that prepares the body to face danger. Changes seen during this response include increased heart rate, rapid breathing, dry mouth and sweating. This response does not have any long-term effects on the body, and often can help in dealing with stressors. Stress, in many instances, can be useful, and help the person deal with the demands placed on them, by making them more alert, energised, and attuned to external cues.

However, long term exposure to stress, and the exposure of the body to high levels of hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, can lead to increased vulnerability to illnesses, such as depression, obesity, heart disease, etc.

The symptoms of stress can vary between different individuals. The most common symptoms are:
Sleep disturbances
Muscle tension
Lack of motivation
Difficulty concentrating
Change in eating habits
Increased use of alcohol or other drugs
Unhealthy eating and decreased level of exercise
These symptoms, in turn, affect how you deal with the events that cause stress, thereby worsening the stress.

What Causes Stress?

Certain life situations are more likely to predispose a person to experience stress. For example, surveys have found that mothers who worked full time had the highest stress levels in the populations surveyed. Other situations that can lead to stress are financial pressures, unemployment, work stress, lower education, social isolation, conflict, personal/family illness, and relationship problems.

People experience events in different ways. For example, the loss of a job may be viewed as a disaster that affects feelings and behaviour. Alternatively, it may be viewed as an opportunity to move on to something better. The manner in which this event is viewed explains the different responses that people have to the same event. Other factors such as personality and previous experience also influence how the event is perceived. Another factor that leads to stress is a mismatch between the experience and the resources available to cope with it. Losing a job, for example, might be a difficult event, but if you are having difficulties with a relationship in addition to this, then you might not have the support to get through a difficult period, emotionally and financially.

How to Deal with Stress?

You can learn to manage stress by using various techniques, such as monitoring and challenging the way you think about events, slow breathing, and solving your problems in a structured manner. In addition to this exercising, cutting down on drug and alcohol use, and doing things you enjoy can help in coping with stress.

In cases where severe stress leads to depression or anxiety, medications such as antidepressants might have a role to play. It would be best to consult your local doctor in such cases, as they will be able to advise you on the suitability of medication, or to direct you to an appropriate professional.

Take our free Coping With Stress course

THIS WAY UP offers a free ‘Coping with Stress’ course that will show you how to challenge your thoughts, slow your breathing and work through your problems.