Stress Management Series

Part 1: Stress - What is it and how to recognise the symptoms?

If you’re feeling out of control and unlike yourself, the reason could be due to stress. 

Stress could explain the feeling of overwhelm, inability to think straight and that sense of helplessness to do something about it. But there are always things you can do to get back in control of the situation.

Recognising your signs of stress and identifying your own stressors are the first steps you can take in order to do something about it.

Stress – what is it?

Are you living in the grip of stress?

Are you living in the grip of stress?

We all know stress and have experienced it at different times, in different doses and durations. But we often don’t realise just how much of a grip it has on us and the extent of the impact it’s having on how we function.

According to the Australian Psychological Society, stress is “feeling overloaded, wound-up, tense and worried, and occurs when we face a situation we can’t cope with.” #1

Understanding when it’s your stress response talking and not your usual self can help you put some perspective on the situation.

Types of Stress

Acute stress

When the stress is acute but short-lived. It is triggered by certain situations, such as tight deadlines, loss of job and starting a new job.  

Chronic stress

Is ongoing. It persists for long periods. Without the chance to recover, it doesn’t go away. And, it builds up cumulatively when a number of different stressors occur at the same time.

Chronic stress is more widespread than you might realise. Living with chronic stress is increasingly becoming the new norm.

The RMIT Resilience and Wellbeing Report, October 2017, found that “Never before have we seen such frequency and volume of shared anxiety, stress and feelings of uncertainty as we do today.”

The report found a high incidence of a sense of despondency. That perceived inability to control the events seemingly unravelling around us. These feelings permeate everything we do.

The sad truth is that that most of us are somewhere between functioning and flailing when it comes to our wellbeing. We’ve been caught up in a dysfunctional approach to success and living. And we’re beginning to think that living like this is normal.

You might not even realise how bad it is until you’ve stepped out of the stress cycle and experienced better.

How to recognise the symptoms of stress

Maybe you’ve already presented to your medical practitioner with some of these symptoms and you’ve undergone tests to rule other things out.  And the findings may not have been conclusive.  It could be that you’ve been reluctant to reveal just how tough life has felt.  The stressful situation you’re going through and how you’ve really been feeling.  Here are some symptoms of stress.

Physical symptoms:

·      Increased heart rate

·      Blood pressure

·      Tensing of the muscles

·      Fatigue

·      Sleep disturbances

·      Insomnia

·      Heart palpitations

·      Headaches

·      Muscular aches and pains

·      Weakened immune system

·      High blood pressure

Psychological symptoms:

·      Worry

·      Fear

·      Irritability

·      Anxiety

·      Helplessness

·      Anger

·      Tearfulness

·      Poor memory and concentration

·      Overwhelm

In a nutshell

So if you feel like you’re losing a grip on yourself, it may be because you’re in the grip of stress. If you’re feeling like your life and career is unravelling around you and you don’t have control, take time to reassess the situation.

Check in with how you’re feeling, both physically and psychologically. Chances are that if you’ve been feeling like this it’s due to stress. If you’ve been feeling like this for a long time, it could be that your stress has become chronic.

Either way, whether the stress you’re living with is acute or chronic, you can do something about it. And you do need to do something about it to cultivate a thriving life. More about this soon!

In Part 2, I will talk about what living with stress is costing you.