stressed are YOU?
certain level of stress brings out the best in us, often described as eustress.
But high levels of unmanageable stress over a sustained period can damage our
health, causing distress.
of it in this way - good
stress or eustress,
is what gets you up and running, what enables you to get to work, keep your
date with your sweetheart, or clean out the attic on Sunday morning. Eustress
helps to make your life enjoyable' even interesting. Such stress provides
stimulation and challenges, and is essential to development, growth and
stress or distress
makes you anxious and irritable, dampens your spirit and shortens your life.
Distress is a reaction to some type of pressure, either external or
self-imposed, which prompts psychological and physiological changes of an
changes can be complex, but they all involve a certain group of basic body
responses which arose in the course of evolution, as organisms met situations
of physical danger. Such situations triggered the body's "fight or
flight" response (Survival
inappropriate they may be we observe the same response in certain social,
emotional or occupational situations. Usually the responses are of short
duration. If their effects persist beyond a reasonable length of time, they
can lead to mental and physical problems mentioned below.
individual may have different reactions to the same stressor depending on how
one interprets the event. Some individuals relish change; others fear it. A
great deal of stress has to do with the degree to which we need to be in
control of events in our life. People who have less of a need to be in control
of their environment tend to experience less stress.
people are not aware of being under stress. Some are frequently under so much
stress that they assume the feeling is normal. This is especially true for
those individuals who are not aware of their emotional responses. For them, it
is often necessary to rely upon the physical manifestations of stress.
There is no single
symptom that can identify stress. Some physical symptoms of stress like high
blood pressure and heart disease may be life threatening while others like
headaches and insomnia and less so. Along with these there is an entire
plethora of emotional symptoms varying from general irritability to loss of
the last article we focused on the first step in learning to manage stress:
i.e. recognize the triggers or stressors in your life. The
section below shows common symptoms of stress, and the negative effects that
excessive stress can cause. While the symptoms in isolation may or may not
show stress, where several occur it is likely that stress is having an effect.
It is to important to bear in mind that all these symptoms may be caused by
factors other than stress.
that as the stress you are under increases, your ability to recognize it will
The symptoms are organised
into the following categories:
Naturally if any of the
symptoms feel serious, consult a doctor.
Term Physical Symptoms
mainly occur as your body adapts to perceived physical threat, and are caused
by release of adrenaline. Although you may perceive these as unpleasant and
negative, they are signs that your body is ready for the explosive action that
assists survival or high performance:
hands and feet
of nausea, or 'Butterflies in stomach'
desire to urinate
are the symptoms of survival stress.
Term Performance Effects
adrenaline helps you survive in a 'fight-or-flight' situation, it does have
negative effects in situations where this is not the case:
interferes with clear judgement and makes it difficult to take the time to
make good decisions.
you need good physical skills it gets in the way of fine motor control.
can seriously reduce your enjoyment of your work
damages the positive frame of mind you need for high quality work by:
focus and concentration and
it difficult to cope with distractions
consumes mental energy in distraction, anxiety, frustration and temper.
This is energy that should be devoted to the work in hand.
Term Physical Symptoms
occur where your body has been exposed to adrenaline over a long period. One
of the ways adrenaline prepares you for action is by diverting resources to
the muscles from the areas of the body which carry out body maintenance. This
means that if you are exposed to adrenaline for a sustained period, then your
health may start to deteriorate. This may show up in the following ways:
of intense and long-term tiredness
Symptoms of Long Term Stress
you are under stress or have been tired for a long period of time you may find
that you are less able to think clearly and rationally about problems. This
can lead to the following internal emotional 'upsets':
out of control or overwhelmed by events
and an inability to concentrate or make
more alcohol and smoking more
more on medication
you or other people are under pressure, this can show as:
too fast or too loud
and twitching, nail biting, grinding teeth, drumming fingers, pacing, etc.
and reacting emotionally
less realistic judgements
more accident prone
of personal appearance
These symptoms of stress
should not be taken in isolation - other factors could cause them. However if
you find yourself exhibiting or recognizing a number of them, then it would be
worth investigating stress management techniques.
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