Stress is a natural part of life, and the right type of stress can be a good thing as it gives us the drive we need to get things done, to move forward and to meet challenges. We are programmed to experience stress in short intense bursts as part of our fight or flight response, and this is part of what's contributed to our survival as a species for hundreds of thousands of years. So, not all stress is bad, in fact when we experience positive stress we feel exhilarated, stimulated, energetic and joyful.
Unfortunately, we are no longer living the kind of lives that we are genetically programmed for. When we experience stress, it is less often experienced in a short intense bursts. Instead, it's often for prolonged periods of time, and can steadily build rather than present itself as an immediate issue. The truth is, when most of us talk about stress, what we really mean is distress. We cannot function effectively, or enjoy life to the full when we are distressed in this way. The familiar feelings that accompany distress include knotted stomach, or constant butterflies, a feeling of helplessness, anxiety, panic, lack of control, frustration, nausea, and so on. You may notice your daily thoughts and mood becomes negative, and the niggly stress you feel when there are deadlines to meet, jobs that you dislike and people irritating you increases. Tension builds up in our muscles, we cannot think clearly or objectively and our sleep is often adversely affected. Stress hormones are released and if not dispersed, they create the potential for a whole host of unpleasant symptoms leading to physical ill health such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes.
There are many ways in which we can coach you to begin to reduce your stress levels such as making lifestyle changes, introducing relaxation techniques, addressing unhelpful thought patterns and beliefs, removing negative self-talk, developing an understanding of what your core values are, and living a life in which you pursue fulfilling goals in alignment with those core values. In doing so, we'll not only tackle your symptoms, but you'll be creating the kind of life that prevents excessive and prolonged stress affecting you in the future.
First of all, it's important to recognise the stage of stress you're in, so that we can take the right steps to begin to alleviate your stress levels as quickly as possible.
1. We refer to the first stage as Stressed and Wired. Symptoms of being stressed and wired include feeling overwhelmed, out of control, experiencing fear and panic but not knowing why, having paranoia, low self-esteem, low confidence, feeling useless, anxious, fidgety, irritable, nervous, suffering with migraines, digestive problems, and acute allergies.
2. We refer to the second stage of stress as being Wired and Tired. Symptoms of being wired and tired can include long-term, prolonged stress, weight gain or loss, insomnia, increased comfort eating and/or excessive use of alcohol, a sense of unhappiness, ‘surviving but not thriving’, high blood pressure, increased sexual drive, addictions, OCD, diabetes, hyper-thyroid syndrome, feelings of being ‘hyper and wired’ but frazzled and shattered at the same time.
3. The third stage of stress is what we refer to as being Stressed and Tired. Symptoms at this stage include ‘burnout’, feeling like ‘enough is enough’, feeling fatigued all the time, struggling to cope, feeling depressed, suffering chronic fatigue syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, eczema, low blood pressure, low tolerance to cold, low immunity, and low sex drive. At this stage you may have been signed off work for a period.
Depression, anxiety and stress are mental health conditions that can all be measured on the same scale.
If you're concerned about your current stress levels and how stress might be affecting you then completing the DASS Questionnaire is a good place to start. Half the battle to overcoming any problem, and creating positive change is to understand where you're starting from. We've provided a free DASS Questionnaire so you can do exactly that.
You may find you're experiencing mild symptoms, in which case a number of quick lifestyle changes may have a huge benefit and prevent your symptoms from worsening. If your symptoms are extremely severe then I would recommend telling someone and getting in touch with your GP asap.
If you want to learn more about where your current stress levels are, then you can download a copy of the DASS Questionnaire by clicking below.