What is stress?
Although we can all relate and know what it is like to feel stressed, there is no universal definition. A simple explanation of stress is that it is about being pressured by an event or situation (real or perceived) and believing that we do not have enough resources to cope. We think that the demands of the situation exceed our ability to cope.
In terms of a physical reaction, stress is the body’s response to feeling threatened or pressured. Too much stress can affect our mood and physical health. Experiencing a lot of stress over a long period of time can also lead to feelings of physical, mental and emotional exhaustion, often referred to as burnout.
Stress is also a very common response to everyday life and being under pressure is a normal part of life. Low-level stress can sometimes even be helpful or motivating. It can help you become active, feel more energized, and achieve results. However, if you are frequently overwhelmed by stress, these feelings may become a problem for you.
Symptoms of stress
When you are stressed, you may notice some of the following symptoms:
Racing thoughts or difficulty concentrating
Feeling worried or anxious all the time
Lack of self-esteem
Difficulty sleeping or feeling tired all the time
Eating more or less than usual
Frequent headaches or body aches
Tips for coping with stress
Identify the stressor
Identify what you think is triggering the stress, and then see if there are some things you can better control. Some things will be beyond your control, depending on the daily demands of your specific work role, but you may be able to control some aspects, such as taking a short lunch break away from your desk each day or going to bed earlier so you have more energy the next day.
Build regular exercise into your life – not only is it part of a healthy, balanced lifestyle and gives you more energy, many people find that exercise helps them relax and relieve stress.
Make sure you eat and sleep well
Make time for family, friends and hobbies. Most of us know this is important, but we don’t always make time for it. Schedule an evening during the week to pursue a hobby, or a day on the weekend to relax or spend time with a friend.
Learn calming techniques such as breathing and relaxation to help your mind and body become more relaxed. These techniques require practice, but can be very helpful if used regularly.
If you notice that stress and anxiety are interfering with your daily functioning and mood, talk to a doctor about stress and anxiety and strategies to reduce stress.
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