Symptoms of stress

Are you stressed?

So how can you tell whether you are really stressed or not? What are the signs? Everyone is different but there are certain patterns that crop up time and time again in people who are stressed. Among the most common statements my clients make are: “The smallest thing sets me off”, “Life is all work and no play these days” and “I feel tense nearly all of the time.”

Recognise some of these feelings? If any of them apply to you then stress could be controlling your life.

Recognising your symptoms

The symptoms of stress manifest themselves in many ways. Some may even surprise you because you may just accept them as part of everyday life or you may be so accustomed to them that you ignore them altogether. Learning how to notice your stress symptoms in part of the key to successful stress management.

In just the same way that you know when you are getting a cold and take some aspirin or get an early night to ‘nip it in the bud’, being aware of your particular set of stress symptoms will help you know when negative stress is setting in. If you spot the symptoms early enough, you can do something about the stress.

Evolution has designed us to defend ourselves instinctively from physical threats to our safety. When confronted by a grizzly bear, a caveman had to react quickly and the so-called ‘fight or flight’ response developed. The fight or flight response is a series of instantaneous physiological reactions that include an increase in the flow of adrenaline, an increase in muscle tension, and an increase in heart rate.

‘Present-day stressors trigger the same physiological changes in our bodies as marauding grizzlies did in our ancestors. But, because most stressors do not present us with a physical threat, we do not act as our bodies are designed. Instead of releasing all the pent-up energy in action by running out of the office or supermarket screaming for help, we plough on regardless, causing emotions like frustration, anger and bitterness to fester. When this happens consistently over a period of days, weeks, months or even years, the negative stress reactions become unhealthy.

How stressed are you?

You may already know that you are stressed but do you know to what degree? In the next section you’ll find three exercises designed to help you find out how stressed you are.

Each questionnaire focuses on a particular type of stress: physical, psychological and behavioural. Once you have completed all three you will have a much clearer picture of what area of your life stress hits hardest.

Go to first exercise >>

Text Copyright © Alix Needham
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