Some common signs of too much stress :
Increased sensitivity to criticism
Signs of tension, like nail-biting
Difficulty getting to sleep and early morning waking
Increased use of alcohol or cigarettes
Loss of concentration
It's important to take action to relieve damaging stress before it affects your physical or mental health.
Responding to Stress
We all feel stressed at various times in our lives. Even when 'stress' was still, strictly speaking, an engineering term, people experienced stress in response to life crises. Stress in itself is not necessarily harmful - we need goals and challenges in life, or we get bored. A little bit of stress isn't always a bad thing; it mobilises our bodies, and energises us during the coping process. But being over-stressed may result in a range of health problems, including headaches, upset stomach, high blood pressure - even strokes or heart disease.
Some people can tolerate all sorts of major life changes without feeling pressured, while others find it difficult to cope when life gets stressful. However, we do know that too much is damaging.
Stress is a well-known trigger for depression and can also affect your physical health - so it's important to identify the stress factors in your life and do everything you can to minimise them.
Any sort of loss, such as bereavement, divorce or separation, or a child leaving home, causes stress, as does long-term illness or disability. But 'good' things like marriage, moving house, a new job and holidays have quite high stress ratings too. Worrying about deadlines or about not being up to the challenges of a particular task may also produce symptoms of stress.
These include tension, irritability, and feelings of tiredness, sleep problems and haggard looks.
Responding to life stress
One of the first steps to coping with stress is learning to recognise your personal signs and symptoms. The way you function on a daily basis may change, or you may notice a difference in your body (like tense shoulders), thinking, or general sense of well-being. Is the stressor (what's causing your tenseness) a real threat? Or is something causing needless stress in your life?
Stress is part of life; everyone knows what it's like to be anxious. But we don't need to compound our problems by putting ourselves down and thinking irrational thoughts like 'I'm weak', or 'Nobody gets stressed out like I do.' We're not weak or neurotic because we're stressed - we're stressed because we're human. We shouldn't waste energy on blaming ourselves or giving ourselves negative thoughts as self-imposed punishment.
Approaching stress constructively
It can be tempting to hide from the people, places and tasks, which make life stressful. By removing yourself from the situation, it's possible to find immediate relief - but these sources of stress will never go away unless we confront them. Being haunted by these stressors means that we can't be relaxed in case the sources of stress returns.
Hypnotherapy and counselling can help an individual gain some control and find positive ways to deal with stress.
Enduring, mastering (and surviving!) what life throws at us - converting stress into a positive force - is a lifelong challenge. Everyone needs a certain amount of stress in order to live well; it's what gets us out of bed in the morning. Remember to be gentle with yourself.
Effective stress-management can prevent stress-related ailments, such as anxiety, insomnia and digestive upset, boost vitality and enhance enjoyment of life.