Stress is the worry we feel when we are under pressure to do something and think we will fail – when the demands being made on us are greater than we think we can cope with.
When we think about the causes, signs and symptoms of stress, we often think about workplace stress, but we can get just as stressed out by ‘everyday life’ events and these can have an equally dramatic impact on our health.
Stress is a common response to tough events or situations. Stress is the worry we feel when we are under pressure to do something and think we will fail – when the demands being made on us are greater than we think we can cope with.
Stress triggers off our ‘fight or flight’ response, preparing the body to take action against potential danger. The trouble is, your body isn’t very good at distinguishing between emotional and physical threats. You can get just as stressed out over an argument with a friend or a mountain of bills as a true life-or-death situation. Some stress is normal and even beneficial, but severe and ongoing stress can put your physical and emotional health at risk
Stress is subjective – the level and impact of stress we feel depends on our attitude and interpretation. You can get stressed out just by worrying about things. An event that may be extremely stressful for one person can be a minor bump in another person’s life.
Factors that can play a part in feeling stressed out include:
- Fear and uncertainty. Things like family or relationship breakdowns, redundancy or financial problems, health concerns or traumatic events.
- Anxious thoughts or outlook. Having unrealistic expectations, perfectionism, negativity, inability to accept uncertainty, lack of flexibility or rigid thinking, negative self-talk or an ‘all-or-nothing’ attitude.
- Any major life change can be stressful – even a happy event like a wedding, moving house or caring for a newborn baby.
The severity and length of the stress we experience can also be influenced by:
- How the problem affects you
- Whether or not you have any control
- How long the stressful event lasts
- How important the outcome is to you
Long term stress & burnout
In the long term, the pressure that stress puts on your body is bad for both your physical health and emotional wellbeing. Eventually, too much stress on your body over a long period of time can cause us to burn out. Burnout is a state of complete mental, physical and emotional exhaustion.
It’s easier to prevent burning out if we’re able to identify early on the signs of experiencing too much stress and address them.
Common signs of being stressed out
- Headaches, aches and pains
- Difficulty sleeping
- Difficulty concentrating, forgetfulness, indecisiveness
- Upset stomach
- Constant worry
- Drinking or smoking too much or using drugs
- Feelings of apathy, hopelessness and lack of control
- Chest pain, rapid heart rate
- Muscle tension.
How to control stress symptoms
Further reading on how to de-stress
If you’re still feeling very stressed every day, it might be helpful to talk to a health professional or a counsellor.