Life can be full of demands and deadlines which can lead to feelings of anxiety and stress. While stress is not always a bad thing – in small doses can help us perform better and focus more – prolonged stress can lead to health issues. Stress can be seen as a cumulative force with early signs including irritability, headaches and disturbed sleep.
Left to fester and build, stress can eventually overwhelm us, making it difficult to function and can eventually impact our relationships, work and home life. Early warning signs of stress can be your body’s way of telling you to slow down and unwind before your health is compromised, so it is important to be able to recognise these symptoms before things escalate.
Physical Signs of Stress
Stress can affect every part of our lives, from our physical wellbeing to our emotional state and the way we interact with people. Physical signs of stress can include muscle tension, headaches, fatigue and a change in sex drive. These are all warning signs that you’re taking on too much and not having enough down time for yourself.
Problems sleeping and not being able to ‘switch off’ at night are also common symptoms and early warning signs of stress. If you are frequently feeling unwell and are always catching the latest cold or other illness going about, this is another key sign that your body is not having enough time to wind down.
Emotional Signs of Stress
Stress can result in a lack of motivation or drive as we can sometimes feel there is simply too much to do; this can lead to us losing focus on current tasks we are supposed to be completing. Lack of sleep can leave us feeling irritable, becoming forgetful, restless, and perpetually anxious. General feelings of being overwhelmed and insecure are all telltale signs of stress and your body and brain’s way of letting you know it needs time to recover.
Behavioural Signs of Stress
As well as affecting our psychological and physical wellbeing, stress can have an effect on the way we communicate with our friends, peers and colleagues. Angry outbursts and snapping at people are common signs of stress, as are social withdrawal, avoidance and over/under-eating. For some, stress can lead to alcohol or drug dependence as a way of coping or forgetting about the reason they are stressed, and people can also face difficulties holding down a relationship.
As we have established, stress can be an issue that affects not only our psychological well-being but also our physical and emotional wellbeing too. If ignored, stress can overrun our lives, affecting every aspect of it from our work life to home life and the relationships we have formed. Recognising the early signs and symptoms of stress is crucial to management and prevention and there are ways to decrease your stress levels, the first of which being to recognise you are stressed in the first place.
Getting enough sleep can be difficult when we are stressed but is crucial to feeling better and putting things in perspective. How often do things seem a lot worse than that actually are mainly due to the fact that we are overtired and emotional? Getting a good night’s sleep can reset your brain and give it time to process the problem so the next day you wake up feeling refreshed and motivated to tackle the problem.
If you have trouble sleeping there are a number of things which can be done including ensuring you turn off electrical equipment such as the TV or iPad at least half an hour before bed, opting for reading a book instead. Taking a bath before bed with a lavender scent can help you unwind and make it easier to drift off, as can some deep breathing such as meditation directly before you go to sleep.
Diet can also play a huge role in stress management and affect our day to day lives. Processed foods full of sugar and fat can lead to weight gain and a lack of energy, making day to day tasks harder and therefore increasing stress levels. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables and natural fats can lead to sustained energy as well as a better night’s sleep and ability to deal with day to day tasks which may cause stress. Dietary supplements are also available to combat stress and reduce the effects of fatigue, exhaustion and mild anxiety when combined with a healthy lifestyle.
Finally, regular exercise can be a great stress reliever as part of a healthy lifestyle. Exercise releases endorphins, the ‘feel-good’ hormones, leading to a mood boost after a period of exercise. If stress is getting you down, exercise can also be a great way of releasing frustration through hitting a punching bag or lifting weights to get rid of tension. When combined with a healthy diet, exercise can also lead to a better night’s sleep as it makes the body work and so sleep is necessary for repair. This night of quality sleep can sometimes be all that is needed to reduce stress levels and get you ready for the day ahead.
As we can see, stress can have the potential to affect every aspect of our lives from our relationships to our physical health. Recognising the symptoms of stress early is crucial to beating it and there are a number of ways to reduce stress including getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly. When combined, these lead to a healthy lifestyle which can go a long way in alleviating the symptoms of stress or making stress more manageable and able to deal with