Stress is how you feel and respond when the pressure you’re under exceeds your ability to cope. A certain amount of stress can be positive as it can help you prepare for actions and challenges, but too much can cause both mental and physical problems.
To help raise awareness this Stress Awareness Month, Pablo Vandenabeele, Clinical Director for Mental Health at Bupa UK Insurance, answers some of the most common questions about stress.
What are the warning signs of stress?
Everyone reacts to stress differently – it can depend on your personality and how you respond to pressure. Stress, especially over a long period of time, can cause both mental and physical problems. Some common effects to look out for include mood swings, feeling irritable or short tempered, being more emotional, and feeling depressed or anxious. You might also notice behavioural changes, including eating more or less than usual, sleeping too much or too little, becoming more aggressive, smoking and drinking alcohol more than usual, and being unable to concentrate.
What are the main causes of stress?
There are many situations that can cause stress, and sometimes there may not be an obvious cause. Some of the common triggers for stress include work or education demands, financial matters, personal life events or changes; such as illness or injury, bereavement, and organising a large or complicated event, and friends and family situations; such as a relationship break-up or divorce or being a carer.
What does stress do to your body?
Stress can affect you physically and cause problems such as having no energy, trouble sleeping, stomach ache, chest pains or tightness in your chest, headaches, diarrhoea and constipation, feeling sick, muscle tension, hyperventilating, and sexual problems.
How can you reduce or avoid stress?
There are lots of ways of dealing with stress and the one or ones that work for you may be different to what works for someone else. There are many things you can try to help deal with and manage your stress. These include exercise, meditation, eating a healthy balanced diet, avoiding unhealthy habits such as drinking too much alcohol or smoking, finding time to meet friends, making time for yourself, and knowing your limits and accepting the things you can’t change.
Is stress linked to anxiety and panic attacks?
Most people experience feelings of anxiety and panic at some time as a response to a stressful situation. Anxiety is a feeling of unease, which could be due to being worried, tense or afraid about certain things that are about to happen or a situation. Panic attacks can happen as a result of severe anxiety and can come on very quickly. Some symptoms include a racing heart, feeling faint, sweating, nausea, chest pain and a shortness of breath.