What is stress and how can I beat it?
Stress is something everyone feels at times and we're faced with all kinds of stressful situations on a daily basis. But did you know that low-level stress can actually be helpful or motivational? So what is it stress? What are the signs? What can I do to reduce my stress? Read on to find out.
The long lasting effect of the pandemic has been detrimental to the nation’s mental health by disrupting our social lives, restricting travel and making most of us work from home. Research by the charity Mind discovered that 1 in 5 of us take a day off work because of stress but what is even more interesting is that 90% gave a different reason for their absence.
What is stress?
Stress is the body’s natural reaction to feeling threatened or being under pressure. It’s hugely common, it can be motivating to help us achieve things in our daily life and can also help us meet the demands of work and family life.
However too much stress can affect our mood, our body and our relationships – especially when it feels out of our control. It can cause anxiety, make you irritable and negatively affect self-esteem.
Experiencing lots of stress over a prolonged time period can also lead to a feeling of physical, mental and emotional exhaustion (often called burnout).
What are the signs of stress?
If you're stressed, you might:
- Be irritable
- Eat more or less food than usual
- Lack confidence
- Feel tired more often
- Find difficulty sleeping
- Have stomach problems
- Be more forgetful
- Be avoiding certain places or people
It's important to remember that stress affects people differently and we all have varying thresholds to stress. The contributing factors causing can also be different from person to person. We typically feel stress when there is a feeling that we don't have the right resources or tools to manage multiple challenges in our lives. Here's some possible causes:
- Unexpected life changes
- Feeling lonely
- Pressures at work or at home
- Financial problems
- Health issues
- Significant life events
How can I beat stress?
- Talk about stress and your feelings to your friends and family or your doctor. It might be difficult to share sensitive information because of the stigma surrounding stress but trust me - we've all felt the effects of stress at some point in life. Be open about it.
- Take control of your situation and acknowledge your feelings, this can be empowering and help you strive to seek solutions to combat your stresses.
- Unhealthy habits like alcohol or smoking might help you feel better in the short term but you need to tackle the causes of stress directly, avoid these.
- Concentrate on the things you can control, things you have little or no control over shouldn't be at the forefront of your mind (because you can't do anything about them!)
- Help others. Not only will this help you to become more resilient but assisting and giving your time to others can help you take your focus off your own challenges. It can also help to put your problems into perspective.
- Exercise and eat well, even if you're feeling too stressed. Self care is the key to wellbeing.
- Keep the glass half full. Try to count your blessings and list a couple of things you are grateful for at the end of each day.
This has hopefully given you an understanding about stress and some tips for combating stress. Remember, if you feel that what you are doing is not helping reduce stress, it might be a good idea to consider seeking support from your doctor or healthcare professional.
Dr Zobir Alexander, MB ChB, BSc (Hons) - Senior writer