Effects of Stress

The word stress is usually used to describe the feelings that people experience when the demands made on them are greater than their ability to cope. At such times people can often feel overloaded, under tremendous pressure and very tense or emotional. Stress affects everyone, young and old and is a completely normal reaction that all human beings will experience from time to time when faced with situations that they feel under pressure in.

Stressors

stressed girlStress can be looked at in terms of external and internal stressors. External stressors are sources of stress that we are aware of around us, these can include traumas, life experiences or simply daily hassles. Internal stressors are the sources of stress that are inside us and are often the most common sources of stress. They are the thoughts and feelings that pop into your head and cause you to feel unease, these can include unrealistic expectations, uncertainties, low self esteem and apprehensions.

The work place is also known to be a key factor in stress. A study conducted by the International Stress Management Association found that more than half of people in work had suffered from stress over a period of a year. Also, statistics have shown that a quarter of working people had taken time off sick due to stress and that stress is the leading cause of sick leave. Common causes of stress at work include; workloads, long hours, responsibilities, role expectations, bullying or harassment, lack of job security, poor working environment, the organisational structure, career development and lack of support.

Symptoms of Stress

Bang head posterStress can manifest itself as many different symptoms, ranging from physical to psychological and behavioural, and people may experience these to varying degrees. Physical symptoms can include; increased heart rate, sweaty palms, muscle tension, sleep disturbance, fatigue, vomiting, change in breathing patterns, dry mouth, headaches, nausea or dizziness, indigestion or heartburn and sudden weight loss or gain.

Psychological symptoms can include anxious thoughts, irritability, low self esteem and confidence, inability to concentrate, feeling fearful, feeling unable to cope, difficulty making decisions, feeling negative and lack of interest in life, feeling alone, loss of creativity, withdrawal, frustration and confusion.

Behavioural symptoms can include altered sleep patterns, use of drugs or alcohol, changes in appetite, avoiding situations, changing habits, nail biting, teeth grinding, neglect of physical appearance, lack of communication, putting off difficult jobs and giving excuses.

The Stress Response

What happens to the body when it is stressed? These are the steps that your nervous system goes through and how your body and mind are involved.

1. Blood from the skin, internal organs, and extremities, is directed to the brain and large muscles.

2. Your senses are heightened: vision and hearing.

3. Glucose and fatty acids are forced into the bloodstream for energy.

4. The immunes system and digestive system are virtually shut down to provide all the necessary energy to respond.

Coping With Stress

Identifying what makes you feel stressed and the physical, psychological and behavioural symptoms associated with these stressful events is the first step in helping to manage the stress that you experience. There are many suggested methods of dealing with stress, including looking into using relaxation and breathing exercises.

Sleep and diet are also important factors when dealing with stress and steps can be taken to improve these. Some people also find practising stopping unwanted thoughts and taking steps to distract themselves can help reduce some of the symptoms of stress. Similarly practicing skills such as being assertive and prioritising activities can also be useful