Let's talk about Stress

Stress can manifest in many ways and affect anyone at any point in their life.

Stress has been proven to have a dramatic effect on a person’s health can shorten a person's life span. In honour of International Stress Awareness Week, we want to take a closer look at what stress it and how it’s best to manage it.

What is stress?

Woman with dark curly hair looking stressed

Even though we have all heard of stress, what is it exactly? Stress can simply be described as the body’s reaction to any change that occurs in our environment. This reaction can be physical, mental and emotional and be provoked by a change not just in our physical environment but also our emotional environment. It must be said that stress is a normal part of life and can be provoked by any change in the world around us, good or bad.

How does stress affect our health?

Woman sat at desk looking stressed with head in hands

The human body is programmed to experience stress. It is perfectly normal and natural. However, when stress is impacting your daily well being, mental and physical health, it is always worth going to talk to your GP. Stress is used by the body as a ‘flight or fight’ response to prepare your body for any danger that is coming your way. Experiencing prolonged periods of stress means your body is constantly under pressure as if it were always in immediate danger, which is never good for your body.

Symptoms of prolonged or chronic stress can include the following:

  • Headaches

  • Elevated blood pressure

  • Chest pain

  • Sexual dysfunction

  • Panic attacks

  • Anxiety

  • Depression

In some circumstances, persistent stress has even been linked to heart disease, cancer and suicide. Studies have also shown that those are suffering from severe stress are more likely to partake in dangerous behaviours and substances to help cope with stress. Excessive use of alcohol, tobacco, drugs have all been linked to chronic stress, as well as excessive gambling, shopping and surfing the internet. All of these behaviours have their own worrying side effects which can further encourage stress.

How to treat stress

Be safe in the knowledge that stress is normal. You should not feel ashamed for feeling stress and wanting to ask for help. It goes without saying that your GP is the best person to speak in regards to your symptoms and what treatment route you would like to go down. However, here are some common coping strategies that many people use to handle stress

  • Regular exercise

  • A well-balanced diet

  • Relaxation techniques

  • Spending time on your own interests

Normalising stress

woman chatting with friend, smiling

Talking about mental health is a vital step in getting rid of the mental health stigma. And stress should be a part of the conversation. Not only can it be a gateway for other mental health issues but also unhealthy habits and behaviours. That’s why so many celebrities are coming forward to talk about stress and how to deal with it.

Oprah Winfrey explained how she uses mindfulness techniques to manage stress. Her tactic is to simply "close the door and breathe." In fact, other celebrities, like Emma Stone, focus on being present in the moment and mindful of what is directly happening around them to calm the mind and stop from overthinking. The former first lady, Michelle Obama, exercises regularly to help cope with stress. In an interview with Marie Claire from 2008, Michelle Obama explained how she finds exercise “therapeutic”, helping relieve any stress that arises.

Opening up and talking about stress can feel daunting. Most of us hate admitting that we are human and we have limits instead of being the superhuman version of ourselves we want our friends, family and colleagues to believe we are. That’s why seeking support where you feel safe and secure is such an important step in tackling stress. As always, chatting with your GP about your symptoms is vital in finding the correct treatment for you.

Remember to share this on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to encourage the conversation about stress and let others know there is nothing be ashamed about when opening up about our mental health.

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