When you are under pressure and need to remain alert, your body responds by releasing stress hormones (cortisol, adrenalin and noradrenalin) into your blood. These hormones can have a positive effect, e.g. coming up to a deadline, by making you feel more motivated which can help improve your performance. However, if you are exposed to pressure over a long period, you can suffer from chronic stress, which can have a negative impact on your mental and physical health.
Symptoms of stress
Symptoms can vary greatly and may include:
Physical symptoms: headaches; aching muscles (especially around neck, shoulders and back); tiredness; change in weight (lack of appetite/food cravings); chest pains; problems sleeping; feeling restless; dizziness/fainting; loss of libido; diarrhoea/constipation; skin problems e.g. eczema; and high blood pressure.
Behavioural symptoms: mood swings – more irritable/easily angered; problems with concentration; becoming tearful/crying easily; drinking more caffeine rich drinks e.g. coffee, energy drinks; smoking, and drinking or using drugs (as a way of coping with the stress).
Psychological symptoms: feeling as though you can't cope; feeling hopeless about the situation e.g. 'things will never get easier'; continual worrying; and oversensitivity (e.g. being offended by a sarcastic remark that you'd normally laugh off).
Causes of stress
Any situation that makes you feel under pressure can result in stress. Some of the most common stressors include: bereavement; problems at work (jobless, promotion, deadlines, pressure from colleagues/managers); health problems (your own or someone close to you); money worries; family problems (e.g. arguments, separation, divorce); moving house; planning a big event (e.g. wedding, party, trip/holiday); or any other big change such as becoming a parent. Anticipation of events can also cause stress, for example, worrying about losing your job. Everyone responds differently to life situations and while one person gets stressed another will not. Some people may have a genetic predisposition or be more likely to suffer from it because of their previous experiences in life and current circumstances. While stress relating to a particular event is not usually a problem in itself, long-term exposure to stress can cause significant health problems and should be addressed.
Dealing with stress at home
Prioritise: Stress may result from you having to much to do in life and little time for rest and relaxation. If you feel this is the case, try to prioritise – keep on doing the most important things but leave the less important things, which should give you more time to exercise, relax and socialise with friends or family.
Talk to people: Talking to others can help get things off your chest and the person may be able to offer some helpful advice too.
Exercise: Exercise is a great way to deal with stress as it relieves pent up tension and provides time out from stressful activities.
Practise breathing techniques
If you are feeling particularly stressed, try to take some time to practise deep breathing techniques. This should help you refocus and feel more calm.
Download our stress booklet
Our stress booklet is packed full of information about stress and ways to manage it. Download our pdf here.
Further information about stress
Feel free to contact us to ask about psychological therapies available at First Psychology Edinburgh that may help you manage stress and its causes.
Lucy Clark, Senior Clinical Psychologist (Online only)