We often talk about how difficult modern life is and how, despite all our amazing technologies and lifestyle enhancing gadgetry, we are still stressed out.
Feeling a little frazzled is the new normal as work, socialising and our home lives get busier and busier and we forget when we last had any down time or a moment to be by ourselves. But stress isn’t something we should ignore either. There are enough lifestyle bloggers out there warning us of the effects of stress on our physical and mental well-being so what do the symptoms look like and how can we combat stress in our very modern, very busy lives.
What is stress?
Quite simply the physical symptoms of stress are our body’s reactions to the feelings of being overwhelmed and struggling to cope. They are, perhaps, a little different from anxiety as they tend to be focused on specific events in life or a build up of events which means that stress can take hold gradually.
But, like anxiety, stress is something that cause problems and if you are experiencing or spot any of these symptoms in a loved one you should make or suggest an appointment with your GP. It might be that some therapy or medication might be an appropriate course of action for the sufferer.
So what are the physical symptoms of stress? Emotionally, you may find yourself prone to sudden and intense feelings of anger or sadness or even fear. You might find yourself expressing these feelings at inappropriate times and feel that you have little control over them. If your working environment is the main cause of your symptoms then this is very often where you’ll find yourself given to outbursts, though on occasion you might bottle your feelings up in the office, only to take it out on friends and family when you get home.
You might find yourself going the opposite way to this and experience symptoms similar to depression, with extreme sadness and a generally low mood. In this case you may want to physically remove yourself from your stressful environment and life in general and feel like sleeping more and being alone.
Physically too your body can feel achy and painful as it absorbs the stress from your mind and leaves you feeling physically very weak. Your appetite and sleep patterns can be affected, which also have a knock on effect on your ability to deal with your stress levels.
How do you deal with stress?
Well, very often we deal with stress entirely the wrong way by trying to escape our reality through excessive use of alcohol, drugs or even smoking more and more cigarettes, anything that will give our minds chance to focus on something else. While, in the short term, we might experience some relief of course it does nothing to get to the root of the problem and can feel ten times worse when you have a hangover or feel out of sorts.
A far more productive way of dealing with stress is to seek help. So the first thing you might consider is telling those closest to you how you are feeling and what’s going on in your life. A listening and supportive ear can work wonders in feeling that you’re being taken seriously and will help you face up to the problems you’re going through.
If you talk to someone at work, you may be able to find a way of reducing your workload to allow your health time to recover from stresses and strains.
It might be that you’re drinking is getting a little out of hand and that you need some support from a professional organisation. Find out more about how in this guide.
Start taking yourself and your issues seriously and begin talking to those who love and care about you. They’ll be glad you trusted them enough to let them in and may be able to offer some practical solutions to help relieve some of the burden of responsibility on you.
Once you have started thinking through your issues, you should start being able to identify what the pressure points are and tackling them. If you are facing pressures at work that are unsustainable, then talk to your HR team or line manager about making some changes to your schedule. If you’re trying to fit work in around your family commitments and it’s becoming too much, rope in some help.
Getting a plan in place that will make actual real changes to your lifestyle will give you both a sense of relief and the knowledge that the stress is being taken away from you.
Next you’ll need to take a look at how to manage the symptoms you are feeling. It can be hard to know what to do with negative feelings but one thing you might consider trying is mindfulness. While this doesn’t always work with some anxiety sufferers, for those who are feeling stressed by a particular set of circumstances it can come in useful.
Carve out some time on your own to sit and carry out some mindfulness and meditation practice. It might seem like fluffy nonsense but scientific studies have shown that these techniques can calm our minds, reduce our stress levels and even help us feel better. You may need to do a little research or get in touch with a professional body in your area but if it helps you to cope just a little better, then it’s well worth doing.
There are other practical steps you can take to help ease the emotional and physical symptoms. Alongside cutting down alcohol and nicotine in your life, you should also consider what you’re eating and how much exercise you’re getting.
In terms of eating better, it’s not time to go on a strict diet but instead just think about including better self-care into your life. Eat foods that make your body feel good and nourished not sluggish and thirsty.
The same applies to exercise, it might not be the time to start marathon training but take a walk every day, especially if you live somewhere with some great natural scenery to take advantage of. There are plenty of studies out there that show the knock on advantages of physical exercise for mental health as well.
It’s easy to recommend getting enough sleep but we’re not just talking about quantity, the quality of your sleep is important too. If you find yourself cat napping or falling into irregular sleep patterns, start by putting in place a regular routine to get your sleep back on track. Allow yourself plenty of time to unwind in the evening, avoiding stimulants and too much in the way of screen time.
Stress is not an easy issue to cope with and can be hard to work through. You do need to make sure that you’re not adding to your mental load by feeling guilty about being stressed. Give yourself a break, what you’re going through is an entirely natural reaction to being placed under too much pressure and is your body’s way of signaling you that you need to make some changes.
If it helps, keep a diary that will log your feelings and your improvements as you seek to make some lifestyle changes. Lean on friends and family, more often than not they’ll be pleased to help and relieved that you’ve decided to confide in them. Stress affects everyone around the sufferer so take it and your health seriously.