Everyone experiences stress at certain times in their lives. Its not always easy to keep it under control all the time. Stress It can come from both inside or outside of ourselves:
Stress can result from feelings and attitudes such as wanting to do your job well, to succeed, to be liked or to make other people happy. These pressures can make you feel worried or angry and sap your energy. Moderate levels of stress can improve our ability to perform our daily tasks but high levels make it difficult to think properly and can makes us feel physically unwell.
Stressful events can happen at any time. They include moving house, getting married, being made redundant, starting a new job, divorce, death of a loved one, difficulties in relationships etc. Researchers have identified over 100 sources of stress but those in the top 20 are more likely to cause emotional problems.
How stress can affect our lives
Stress is known to have a big impact on the way that we function. This in turn will have an affect on all areas of our lives. Some effects on function include:
• Finding it difficult to do tasks to your usual standard
• Difficulty concentrating
• Poor memory
• Lack of drive or motivation for existing or new tasks
• Decreased confidence in your abilities
• Difficulty maintaining healthy relationships with family, friends or colleagues
• Disengaging with friends
• Difficulty maintaining the home
• Difficulty in carrying out everyday tasks, or everyday tasks taking longer than usual is common during times of stress and often results in you feeling more stressed.
The symptoms of stress
Stress can present itself in different ways. These symptoms of stress can be grouped into 4 categories:
- 1. Cognitive symptoms
- 2. Emotional symptoms
- 3. Physical symptoms
- 4. Behavioural symptoms
Within each of these categories are the different ways in which symptoms can be manifested:
What causes these symptoms?
The symptoms of stress are the body’s natural reactions in response to adrenalin. They are automatic responses triggered by the “fight/flight” mechanism, which is designed to keep us safe in times of danger. It does this by getting our body in to the best possible shape to deal with danger quickly, either by running away – flight – or tackling the danger head on – fight. We evolved during a time when it was essential to react quickly to danger in order to survive. Stone Age man, for example, needed to be able to react quickly to the dangers that were all around him and all his bodily reactions would be working to keep him safe. This can still be useful for example, if we walk across the road without looking, but given we no longer live in such a dangerous world this adaptive function is mostly obsolete. Our bodies have yet to catch up and still respond to perceived danger in the same way, despite such a momentous response being far in excess of what is actually needed.
As humans, we only have a certain capacity for managing stress. Imagine that all of your stress was in a jug. The fuller your jug is, the greater the symptoms of stress will be. Once the jug is full, your ability to manage any situation that arises is greatly compromised. This explains why, when your resilience, is low, you may feel less able to cope with matters that would normally have no effect on you. Some of your jug will already be filled with the anxieties of life that we all experience (i.e. money, illness, relationship problems, not having
enough time for yourself, etc). Therefore, if you have a large source of stress in one area of your life that is filling your jug, your capacity to manage stress in the other areas will be compromised. You may feel that you manage your stressful job very well, for example, but feel that you are unable to cope with any stresses at home or vice versa. By partially emptying your jug regularly, you can avoid it ‘over-flowing’ which will help you to reduce your symptoms and to feel more in control. It may be that you are unable to change the main contributor to your stress, but if you can do something about your other sources of stress, you will feel better able to cope.
Why do I get stressed?
It is normal to feel stressed in a number of situations. Quite often, there is little that we can
do about certain event or the situations themselves, but we can always control our reaction
or actions to them. The amount of stress an event or situation causes is often closely linked to:
- The importance we place on it
- Our core beliefs (strongly held beliefs about ourselves that influence what we think and
how we feel.)
- Our thoughts about the situation
- How we are feeling emotionally
These factors do not mean that the person experiencing stress is to blame, but rather offers hope that, whilst the event may not change, the amount of stress it causes can be altered.
Different ways to cope with stress
Some people make the mistake that drugs and alcohol will help them deal with stress. In reality, reliance on such strategies can quickly prove to be counter-productive and make matters worse. Medication can provide relief initially, although this does not treat the root cause of the problem, benefits will be short lived and continued dependency may result longer term. Lifestyle adjustments can prove beneficial for some. Psychotherapy helps to not only address symptoms in all of the 4 categories mentioned previously, but gets to the root cause of the issue and provides much longer lasting benefits.