Everyone experiences feelings of stress from time to time, but how can you tell if it’s becoming a problem? Stress can come from a number of sources, and affects people in different ways. With Stress Awareness Month taking place throughout April, it’s the ideal time to raise awareness of the signs of stress and what you can do to get help. Not all of the signs of stress are that obvious, so make sure you familiarise yourself with the different signs to help you better identify when stress is becoming a problem.
What causes stress?
There are many things that can cause stress in your life, but as different things and situations affect people differently, there aren’t definitive causes of stress. The mental health charity, MIND, describes some of the causes as:
- being under lots of pressure
- facing big changes
- worrying about something
- not having much or any control over the outcome of a situation
- having responsibilities that you’re finding overwhelming
- not having enough work, activities or change in your life
- times of uncertainty.
Stress can be built up over a period of time, or it can come as the result of a single situation such as a break-up, death or incident at work. The way you respond to these pressures will depend on your personality, how resilient you are and what past experiences you’ve had. Everyone is different, so a situation that might seem stressful to you might not be to someone else, and vice versa. Waves of stress can come and go, but if you’re continuing to feel stressed then it might be a sign of a more serious issue.
Signs of stress
You’ll be familiar with the signs of stress that your body produces in order to react to difficult or dangerous situations. Your heart rate might increase, you feel sweaty and tense but these symptoms tend to disappear once you’re out of the situation. However, if you’re constantly stressed, you may start to experience symptoms of stress that include both mental and physical signs. Some of these symptoms include:
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Irritable behaviour
- Always feeling worried or anxious
- Being unable to make decisions
- Difficulty sleeping
- Weight loss or weight gain
There are many ways you can tackle stress to help you manage your symptoms, but if things start to get out of hand, you might need to seek additional help.
What to do when your stress is becoming a problem
If you’re constantly feeling stressed, to the point where you’re not taking care of yourself, you’re not eating or you’re not sleeping – you need to take action to get the help you need. Some of the things you can do include:
Talk to someone
Talking to someone can help you ease the pressure you’ve been feeling and could help you find some solutions to your problems. Sharing your concerns with a family member or friend can help you to overcome your problems, or alert them to the fact that you need further help.
Speak to your employer
If your stress is work-related, then talking to your employer might help. Work pressures can often go unnoticed, so it’s important that you share your concerns with your line manager, HR representative or occupational nurse. By alerting them to the issues you’re facing, you should be able to come to a solution that eases your workload or offloads some of your responsibilities to help you overcome your stress.
Make an appointment with your GP
If you’re trying different methods of handling stress without success, your next port of call should be your GP. Your GP could refer you to stress management courses, try cognitive behaviour therapy or may even prescribe you with medication, although they will try other methods first.
Ways to tackle stress
Finding ways to manage your stress can help you when you’re having a tough day or if you’re going through a stressful period. Some things that people find are great for dealing with stress include:
- Exercises such as yoga and running
- Practicing mindfulness
- Getting a massage
- Pursuing hobbies and interests
- Taking a holiday
- Getting more sleep
Some solutions may not work for everyone, but it’s worth giving different techniques a try to see if they can work for you to stop stress becoming a problem.
The NHS Moodzone pages are an excellent resource for stress and other mental health conditions, offering practical advice and information on where to seek help. Help spread the word about Stress Awareness Month this April to help yourself and others identify when stress is becoming a problem.