What is stress?
Stress is the reaction we feel when we are under too much emotional or mental pressure, which limits our ability to cope. Many demands throughout life can lead to stress, such as work, school or relationship problems. People can react very differently to such demands, with different experiences leading to various levels of stress, dependent on the individual’s response. Studies have indicated that 44% of individuals in the UK may be suffering from long-term stress. While stress is a common experience, it can lead to more serious conditions that are detrimental to everyday life.
Symptoms of Chronic Stress
Have you had trouble sleeping, low energy or a loss of appetite? Have you been feeling dizzy, experiencing frequent headaches or muscle tension? Have you been feeling irritable, temperamental or worrisome? Have you been suffering from low self-esteem or have difficulty concentrating or making decisions?
If you have been experiencing some of these symptoms, you may be suffering from the negative effects of stress. It is important to spot early signs of stress, before the symptoms worsen and cause serious complications. It is extremely important to seek support if your symptoms are not improving after a few weeks, and if your state has affected your work, relationships, or personal interests.
Causes of Chronic Stress
Stress is a normal life experience that is caused by a variety of triggers in many different contexts. Most people experience stress at some point in their life, for example during exam periods at school, when their To-Do-List has piled up at work, or when they are experiencing relationships problems. Some amount of stress can even be good for you – it can motivate you to overcome challenges and develop your personal skills set. However, when the pressure becomes too much to the point that one believes they can no longer cope, stress can lead to serious conditions that can impede normal functioning.
It is very important to seek support if you have been struggling to cope with your stress. High levels of stress can lead to serious mental and physical health conditions, such as clinical depression, generalised anxiety disorder, sleep disturbances, or high blood pressure. People often rely on unhealthy habits to cope with their stress, such as drinking or smoking, which can worsen the condition and its symptoms, leading to a continuous downward spiral.
Treating Chronic Stress
There are a variety of treatments available to those suffering from stress. A number of self-help techniques can be very effective in alleviating feelings of stress. These include recognising your own self-triggers, improving your time-management skills, and refraining from unhealthy habits such as drinking or smoking. Relaxation techniques such as practicing meditation, mindfulness, or yoga have been shown to help people with stress.
Getting regular exercise can also be extremely effective in reducing the symptoms of stress. If you have tried self-help techniques and they do not appear to be helping, there are various other forms of treatment for stress. Various forms of psychotherapy can be effective in reducing stress levels.
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) for stress often involves evaluating how you perceive stressful situations, and changing your mindset to prevent the negative emotions caused by these perceptions. CBT can help individuals recognise their own trigger points, and identify the positive actions one can take to cope with these.
Medication is typically not prescribed to those suffering from stress, unless the individual has also been diagnosed with another condition, such as anxiety or depression. In such cases, medications like antidepressants can be effective in treating these conditions, and stress levels may be alleviated as a result.