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Recognising Stress



As it’s Stress Awareness Month, we’re going to take a look at the different types of stress that can affect us, the physical and emotional signs that we’re stressed, and the impact it has on us. You can also take a look at our previous blog where we tackle some of the myths surrounding stress.

 

There are four main types of stress:

  • Acute stress: a very short-term type of stress that can either be positive or more distressing; this is the type of stress we most often encounter in day-to-day life;

  • Chronic stress: stress that seems never-ending and inescapable, like living in a bad marriage or an extremely taxing job; chronic stress can also be caused by traumatic experiences;

  • Episodic acute stress: this is acute stress that seems to run rampant and be a way of life, causing a consistent feeling of prolonged distress;

  • Eustress: a positive type of stress that feels fun and exciting and can keep you energised. It's associated with surges of adrenaline, such as participating in extreme sports, or racing to meet a deadline. In small doses, this can actually be a useful tool for motivation and personal growth.

 

Stress is not always easy to recognise, but there are ways to identify the signs that you might be experiencing too much pressure. Sometimes stress can come from an obvious source, but even small daily stresses from work, school, family, and friends can take a toll on your physical and mental health.



Physical Signs 

These are some of the physical signs of stress. You may well only experience one or two of them, and some can easily be mistaken for other issues:


  • Difficulty breathing

  • Panic attacks

  • Chest pains and high blood pressure

  • Blurred eyesight or sore eyes

  • Sleep problems and fatigue

  • Muscle aches and headaches

  • Indigestion or heartburn

  • Constipation or diarrhoea

  • Feeling sick, dizzy or fainting

  • Sudden weight gain or weight loss

  • Developing rashes or itchy skin

  • Sweating

  • Changes to your period or menstrual cycle

  • Existing physical health problems getting worse

 

Chronic stress can cause additional effects on your physical health, as it’s so long-term. Signs include:

 

  • Diabetes

  • Hair loss

  • Heart disease

  • Hyperthyroidism

  • Obesity

  • Sexual dysfunction

  • Tooth and gum disease

  • Ulcers

  

Some of the behaviours you might demonstrate include indecision, inability to concentrate or remember things, biting your nails, grinding your teeth or scratching at your skin, snapping at people and being generally more irritable, eating too much or too little, smoking, drinking or taking other substances as a way to forget your worries, or withdrawing from people around you.

 

Stress can make you feel irritable, angry, overwhelmed, nervous or worried, depressed, socially isolated, unable to enjoy yourself, or like you’ve lost your sense of humour. It can also feel as if your thoughts are racing and you can’t control them. Of course, we might feel these emotions even if we’re not stressed, and they could be a sign of other conditions, but if you can combine it with any of the other symptoms listed above, you might well be feeling acute or chronic stress.

 

 

Stress is not a distinct medical diagnosis and there is no single, specific treatment for it, as everyone responds to different methods and the circumstances causing the stress are unique to each individual. Treatments usually focus on changing the situation, developing coping skills, implementing relaxation techniques, and treating symptoms or conditions that may have been caused by chronic stress. Some people may also try therapy and medication.


Whatever works best for you, the key is to first be able to understand what you’re feeling and recognise whether it’s stress. If it is, then you can figure out the technique that helps you manage the feelings in the most suitable way for you.



Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

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