Stress is defined as “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances”. Before learning how to spot stress, it’s important to know that there is good and bad stress:
Good stress, or eustress, is the type of stress you feel when you’re excited. Your pulse quickens and your hormones surge, but there is no threat or fear. You might feel this type of stress when you ride a roller coaster, compete in a game, or go on a first date? The key is that everyone is different and the symptoms plus the level of stress that you can operate under will be different for everyone.
Bad stress is not always easy to recognise, but there are some ways to identify signs that you might be experiencing too much pressure. Sometimes stress can come from an obvious source, but sometimes even small daily stresses from work, school, family, and friends can take a toll on your mind and body.
HOW TO SPOT STRESS
If you think stress might be affecting you, there are a few things you can watch for:
- Psychological signs such as difficulty concentrating, worrying, anxiety, and trouble remembering
- Emotional signs such as being angry, irritated, moody, or frustrated
- Physical signs such as high blood pressure, changes in weight, frequent colds or infections, and changes in the menstrual cycle and libido
- Behavioural signs such as poor self-care, not having time for the things you enjoy, or relying on drugs and alcohol to cope
I know from my experiences of stress in the past I have come to notice the signs of when I am reaching a high stress level and this is where self-care comes in.
8 TYPES OF SELF-CARE
The types of self-care to practice can be categorised in different ways, often including:
- Physical e.g. talking a walk, stretching
- Emotional e.g. writing in a journal, practicing gratitude
- Mental e.g. reading a book
- Spiritual e.g. meditating, spending time alone
- Intellectual e.g. practicing a new hobby, challenging your mind
- Social e.g. calling a friend, establishing boundaries
- Environmental e.g. cleaning your space,
- Financial e.g. budgeting for the week/month, paying bills
The problem is we shouldn’t just wait until we need self-care; we should really always be practising self-care but it is easy to get complacent and then fall into bad habits. Comment below some of the ways that you practice self-care.
It’s fair to say that we all seek to perform at our maximum, in life not just work, and it is all about finding that balance that works for you. I’ve mentioned in other blogs that I am a big believer in habit (it takes an average of 66 days to form a habit). Habit can contribute towards stress – some people fear the worst as a way of coping with stress and then this can become a habit/vicious circle.
Habit can also help explain how you can de-stress however. One example is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), which can help train your mind to break the cycles of negativity/fearing the worst by challenging those thoughts and fears. This encourages you to think more rationally and to form a more constructive thought habit.
I’m no expert but I know what works for me in terms of spotting stress and also how to help myself to de-stress, such as going for a bike ride, taking the dogs for a walk or spending time with family. If you are ever not sure what is wrong, or if you feel like you are experiencing some of the above signs of stress then please, please do speak to your doctor or failing that speak to someone you trust in the first instance. If you can get help to realise what is wrong, the chances are that it can be solved and improve your general wellbeing!
MORE RESOURCES ON SPOTTING STRESS AND SELF CARE
- Stress Management Society – April is Stress Awareness Month ran by the Stress Management Society and their website contains lots of great resources and guides
- Mind – a pdf booklet on how to manage stress from the mental health charity Mind
- Stress Management – an article containing information on the four A’s of Stress Management
- NHS – page on stress