What is stress?
Stress is a commonly used term to describe what can be a normal and often necessary part of life. Stress can motivate us into productivity and prevent us from allowing our ever expanding ‘to do’ list from growing out of proportion. The problem comes when the volume of stress becomes so overwhelming, we feel like we’re losing control.
Imagine stress as the ocean. If you go for a paddle, you may find it refreshing and pleasant. You may even be motivated to go a little further and explore. Move away from the shore, and you will find yourself in deeper water needing to work harder to stay afloat. If you swim until you are no longer able to ground yourself by touching the sea bed, you may begin to struggle and find yourself in need of a rest. When the waves crash over you until you are fully immersed, now you feel as if you are drowning. Now stress is a problem.
Why has stress become such a problem?
As we move further into the twenty first century, life seems to be moving at a faster pace with many struggling to keep up. Modern technology, social media, processed foods and our innate desire to compare and compete with one another are just some of the contributing factors of stress. However, it is not simply a faster way of life that causes stress. Emotional trauma such as bereavement, abuse and relationship breakdowns all contribute towards our feelings of stress. Stress is like a virus. It starts off small and breeds until we are overwhelmed and in DIS-stress.
It’s all just in our head isn’t it?
No, absolutely not. No-one suffering from the effects of stress can just ‘snap out of it’ or ‘pull themselves together’. The effects of stress are both physical and psychological and can cause serious long-term damage if the causes are not addressed. The psychological effects of stress include anxiety, depression, irritability and anger, poor concentration, mood swings and poor memory. The physical effects include high blood pressure, impaired immunity, fatigue, changes in sleep pattern and appetite, gastric problems and muscle pain to name just a few!
Researchers describe a term called somatisation. This is where unresolved emotional and psychological issues such as tension, anger and resentment are stored up over a period of time causing a change in body chemistry to a point that physical symptoms start to appear. Symptoms may include headaches, palpitations, chest pain, muscle pain and gastric disturbances such as acid reflux, heartburn and abdominal pain. This type of pain is not imaginary it is real physical pain caused by a build-up of emotional pain.
Signs of stress
So, if stress can be normal then how do you know if the level of stress you are experiencing is at a normal healthy level or a sign of an impending meltdown? Have a look at the following list of questions and see if any of them resonate with you.
Are you feeling physically and emotionally run down? Are you too busy to rest?
Are you experiencing feelings of isolation, loneliness and misery?
Do you suffer from long term illness and pain?
Do you feel tense most of the time?
Are you prone to irritability and over-reacting to situations or people?
Do you experience frequent problems but avoid addressing them?
Do you feel stuck with no way forward?
Is your concentration and memory poor?
Are you experiencing angry outbursts?
Are you withdrawing from your friends and family?
Are you no longer enjoying activities that used to give you pleasure?
Are you experiencing poor sleep and restlessness?
Are you suffering from a serious sense of humour failure?
It is normal to experience one or more of these from time to time but did you find that several of them connected with where you are now? Are you feeling overwhelmed? Do you think you may be suffering from the effects of stress?
Ponder for a moment on this acronym of stress.
Could that be you?
My apologies if this all sounds more than a little depressing but please be encouraged. Making small simple changes and taking a few positive steps forward can begin to halt and even reverse the effects of stress.
Part two of this article (coming up next week) will uncover some of those changes you can make and steps you can take to reduce your stress levels.
I believe we have been created to enjoy life, not endure it!
For help and support to manage the stress in your life contact New Dawn Counselling centre today via our website https://www.newdawncounselling.org for an assessment. Or via email - firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call on 0115 9170500.