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What are the signs of Stress?

Stress awareness month

April has been host to Stress Awareness Month every year since 1992. The goals of the months is to raise awareness of both the causes and cures for stress in our modern world. The is, sadly, a Stress epidemic and the Mental Health Foundation estimates 74% of UK adults have felt so stressed at some point over the last year they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope. It is a huge public health challenge having significant impact on both mental and physical health.



Is stress always a bad thing?

No, absolutely not. Stress is, first and foremost, a physical response. When our body is ‘stressed’, we switched to ‘fight or flight’ mode in which adrenaline is produced, heart rate increases and our blood (in in turn oxygen) supply is directed to our muscle getting us ready to deal with the scary thing that’s about to attack us. Very helpful back in the day when we might need to run from a tiger. And indeed still quiet helpful if we are, in fact, in real danger. The side effects, however, are that when all the blood is being directed to our muscles, other functions without the body are minimised. The digestive and reproductive system and even brain function become negatively impacted.


The trouble in our modern world is that we rarely need to run from a tiger, yet our body is still recognising our current stresses as equal to that. Putting us into a stress response in inappropriate situations. When we see the state of our inbox, or our child throws yet another handful of Wheetabix on the floor, for example! If we are in a stress response for an extended period of time, even low level stress, it can be detrimental to our general health.


What are the signs of stress?

Signs of stress may be emotional, physical or behavioural.

Emotional signs of Stress:

  • irritable, angry, impatient, wound up or restless

  • over-burdened or over-whelmed

  • unmotivated or unable to find pleasure in things

  • anxious, nervous or afraid

  • unable to switch off

  • unable to enjoy yourself or disinterested in life

  • depressed

  • a sense of dread or constant worry

  • unfocussed, poor memory, unable to concentrate

  • worried about your health


Physical signs of stress:

  • Headaches

  • Muscle tension and pain

  • Difficulty sleeping

  • Lethargy / tiredness

  • High blood pressure

  • Digestive issues

  • Grinding teeth

  • Loss of libido

  • Feeling sick, dizzy or fainting


Behavioural signs of stress:

  • Snapping at people and loosing patience

  • Procrastination

  • Avoid certain situations or avoid responsibilities

  • Absenteeism, lack of punctuality

  • Withdrawal

  • Difficulty making decisions

  • Changes in appetite - eating too much or too little

  • Fidgeting, pacing

  • Biting nails, picking at skin

  • Tearful and crying

  • snapping at people

  • biting your nails

  • picking at your skin

  • unable to concentrate

  • eating too much or too little

  • being tearful or crying

  • increased use of alcohol or drugs / addictive/excessive behaviour

  • suicidal talks, thoughts or behaviour


Each of us has different stress triggers. Something that doesn’t bother you in the slightest might be a huge source of stress for someone else.


Look out for the next post on what can cause stress and how to deal with stressful situations more effectively.


The 30 Day Challenge: Regaining connectivity, certainty and control

The Stress Management Society’s theme for Stress Awareness Month 2021 is ‘Regaining Connectivity, Certainty and Control’. Research is showing that the COVID-19 restrictions have contributed to an increase in feelings of stress in adults within the UK. The three key causes for concern are feelings of disconnection, uncertainty, and a worrying loss of control.

With this is mind, the society are hosting a 30 Day Challenge. For the challenge, we are encouraged to choose one action each for your Physical, Mental and Emotional Wellbeing to carry out every day. Turning these new rituals into long lasting habits. Find out more and take on the challenge!

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