Stress is the body’s reaction to feeling threatened or under pressure. It’s very common, can be motivating to help us achieve things in our daily life, and can help us meet the demands of home, work and family life.
But too much stress can affect our mood, our body and our relationships – especially when it feels out of our control. It can make us feel anxious and irritable, and affect our self-esteem.
Experiencing a lot of stress over a long period of time can also lead to a feeling of physical, mental and emotional exhaustion, often called burnout.
Stress can manifest itself in a huge variety of symptoms, but there are some basic signs. These symptoms can, broadly speaking, be divided into four different types:
1. Physical: Fatigue, headaches, migraines, insomnia, muscle aches/stiffness (especially neck, shoulders and low back), heart palpitations, chest pains, loss of libido, irritable bowel syndrome, abdominal cramps, nausea, trembling, cold extremities, flushing or sweating and frequent colds.
2. Mental: Decrease in concentration and memory, indecisiveness, mind racing or going blank, confusion, no sense of humour.
3. Emotional: Anxiety, nervousness, depression, anger, frustration, worry, fear, irritability, impatience, short temper.
4. Behavioural: Pacing, fidgeting, nervous habits, increased eating, loss of appetite, increased reliance on props – smoking, drinking, drug taking; crying, yelling, swearing, blaming and even throwing things or hitting out.
However, just because you experience any of the above symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean you are stressed. A certain level of pressure is a natural part of everyday life. The danger comes when things spiral out of control and this pressure turns into chronic stress – something which can damage both our physical and mental well-being.
If you suffer from stress at home, chances are your work will start to suffer, while if you are stressed at work, it will affect your home life. This creates a dangerous cycle of depression from which it can be almost impossible to escape.