Managing stress effectively is paramount to supporting our health and wellbeing. It can be difficult to recognise stress since it can affect each of us in different ways. Some of us may find ourselves easily overwhelmed, leading us to pick up unhealthy habits. Others may appear completely immune to stress and the behaviours associated with it. In this article, we’ll look at how to recognise stress and explore affective ways of managing it and how to avoid stress eating.
What is stress?
According to Mental Health Foundation, stress is our body’s way of responding to pressure . This response is usually triggered by different events and situations we face that leave us feeling overwhelmed or out of control – an argument with a loved one, working to tight deadlines, or an illness – to name a few.
Stress isn’t always such a bad thing. See, if we had no stress in our lives at all, life would be pretty boring. A small amount of stress could be seen as a challenge, something that drives our motivation and builds our excitement to tackle something. This could be learning a language, starting a new job, or welcoming a baby into the family.
The problem arises when we experience too many pressures, but we don’t have enough resources to help us manage them. When our pressures build and we experience them for a long period of time, that’s when our mind and body start suffering. Research shows that persistent, long-term stress not only impact our mental wellbeing and could lead to the development of mental health conditions, it can also raise our blood pressure and blood glucose levels, which could increase the risk of developing more serious health conditions like heart disease and type 2 diabetes .
So, what’s the solution?
Before we start to think about how we can reduce stress, it’s best to start right at the source and make sure we are able to recognise stress when it occurs and recognise triggers that lead to stress.
The symptoms of stress are often very vague because we all experience stress differently. There are, however, some common symptoms to look out for. Physical symptoms we might experience are things like headaches, dizziness, problems with digestion, chest pain and rapid heartbeat; mental symptoms include inability to focus, constantly worrying and feeling overwhelmed.
Often these symptoms can lead to changes in behaviour, such as drinking and smoking, changes in eating habits, being snappy, and changes in sleeping pattern.
It’s not all doom and gloom. Here are a few things we can do to help manage our stress. Remember, the stress we experience is very individual. That’s the same for managing stress – what works for one person may not work for another. So, it’s best to personalise stress management techniques as much as possible.
- Socialise with friends, family and loved ones
- Talk about your feelings
- Find relaxing activities you enjoy, like yoga, walking, reading or listening to podcasts
- Using breathing exercises
- Practice time management techniques and plan for stressful days and events
- Set yourself goals and challenge yourself to learn new skills