Stress. We’ve all felt it at some point to some degree, often when we’re faced with something new or unexpected. It can even be useful sometimes, helping us push through life’s tough moments. But when stress becomes too much, it can have negative and lasting effects.
During Stress Awareness Month, we want to look at how to recognise stress in yourself, and make some suggestions that may help try to alleviate it.
So, what does stress look like?
Sometimes stress is acute, linked to a specific event that we experience vividly (for example, suffering a bereavement, or losing a job), and once the event has passed, the stress fades. But it can be insidious, creeping up on us over a long period without us realising, often until it begins to impact our physical health.
These physical symptoms vary from person to person, and even within the same person when faced with different types of stress. You might have heart palpitations, shallow or fast breathing, sweating, headaches, or digestive problems to name a few. If the stress is acute, you’ll probably go back to normal fairly quickly. But if the stress is chronic, waiting until you feel physical symptoms can mean you don’t realise what you’re experiencing until it’s become a new normal that’s hard to shift.
But how does stress feel?
Again, everyone is different. But it’s common to feel anxious, tearful, irritable, frustrated, or depressed. You might also struggle to sleep, withdraw from people, or feel lethargic. It can be a feeling of pressure or being overwhelmed that never really goes away.
It’s important to recognise if you’re feeling stressed, because then you can try to change it. If you can identify the cause, you can come up with practical solutions that mean you can regain control step by step. And even if it’s not something you can change easily or quickly, there are still things you can do to help improve your mental health.
The things that can help reduce stress are personal to each of us. For me, it’s getting outdoors – a walk in the woods or along the beach, or doing some gardening. I find that nature gives me perspective and reminds me of what’s important. Others might find that exercise helps, or meditation. Or maybe indulging in a hobby, whether that’s crafting, playing music, baking or rock climbing!
Take some time to try and figure out what your own therapy is – once you know, you have the tools you need to help counter the feelings of stress, and bring back the balance to your wellbeing.