Stressed? Who, Me?

Signs and symptoms

It is important to understand what is happening on a physiological level when you are feeling stressed.When you are feeling stressed your brain perceives a threat and the fight or flight response is triggered. In a potentially threatening situation this response is invaluable and may save your life or the life of another. However, living in this state of heightened arousal (which short or long-term stressful events can generate) is not good for you and your body may begin to signal this to you in a variety of ways.

Physical

Physical symptoms experienced include:
✦ a pounding heart
✦ elevated blood pressure
✦ sweaty palms
✦ tightness of chest
✦ aching neck, jaw and back muscles
✦ headache
✦ chest pains
✦ abdominal cramps
✦ nausea
✦ trembling
✦ sleep disturbance
✦ tiredness
✦ susceptibility to minor illness
✦ itching
✦ easily startled
✦ forgetfulness.

Thoughts

You may experience:
✦ your mind racing or going blank
✦ not being able to ‘switch off ’
✦ a lack of attention to detail
✦ your self esteem and confidence plummeting
✦ disorganised thoughts
✦ a diminished sense of meaning in life
✦ a lack of control or the need for too much control
✦ negative self statements and negative evaluation
✦ difficulty in making decisions
✦ a loss of perspective.
You may be:
✦ making ‘mountains out of molehills’
✦ driving yourself too hard with ‘I must do this, ought to do that, should do the other’ or demanding too much of others as well as yourself.

Behaviors

You may:
✦ become withdrawn and not want to socialise
✦ increase your alcohol, nicotine or drugs intake
✦ under eat or over eat
✦ become accident prone and careless
✦ become impatient, aggressive or compulsive – pacing, fidgeting, swearing, blaming, throwing and hitting!
✦ work longer hours – not take breaks, take work home, procrastinate with important projects, take the ‘headless chicken’ approach when under pressure, and manage time poorly
✦ no longer have time for leisure activities.

Feelings

You may feel:
✦ irritable
✦ angry
✦ depressed
✦ jealous
✦ restless
✦ anxious
✦ unreal or hyper alert
✦ unnecessarily guilty.
You may experience:
✦ panic
✦ mood swings, crying easily.

Thank goodness you won’t experience all of these symptoms all of the time! Individual responses to stress vary, so you may experience some of these some of the time.This will be your body’s way of saying that you are overdoing things and it is time to reflect and take action in order to reduce and manage the stress response.