Recognising the Symptoms of Stress and Effective Coping Mechanisms

Stress is a natural part of life. The aim of this article is to raise awareness around the wide array of stress-related symptoms and how to manage them effectively.

There are mainly two types of stress – emotional and physical. Good examples of emotional stress are: relationship problems, major life changes, discrimination, financial difficulties and work-related difficulties.

Examples of physical stresses include: alcohol and drug abuse, recovering from injury or surgery, lack of sleep, experiencing pain and being ill.

Excess or chronic stress may produce a wide spectrum of symptoms and affect different parts of our body’s systems.

Cognitive symptoms of stress:

  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Racing thoughts
  • Poor judgement
  • Difficulty remembering information, both recent events and specific details
  • Difficulty concentrating and maintaining focus
  • Confusion & disorientation
  • Impulsivity & Indecisiveness

Emotional symptoms of stress:

  • Feelings of hopelessness and loneliness
  • Apathy & dissatisfaction – less interest in activities that are usually enjoyable
  • Depression & mood swings
  • Frequent irritability
  • Unexplained & irrational fears
  • Feeling overloaded and overwhelmed

Behavioural symptoms of stress:

  • Excessive recklessness & risk taking
  • Self isolation
  • Sleeping problems or irregular sleep
  • Increased nervous habits
  • Hyperactivity
  • Tardiness
  • Lose temper easily
  • Overeating and overindulgence

Physical symptoms of stress:

  • Cold hands and feet
  • Skin conditions
  • Nervous tics or twitches
  • Shortness of breath
  • High blood pressure
  • Muscle tightness and tension
  • Migraines
  • Hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar)
  • Irregular appetite

Let us delve deeper into some proven, very helpful habits and routines to cope with stress:

Practice meditation and mindfulness – use breathing techniques combined with positive imagery and thoughts.  Urban Wellbeing is hosting  Yin-yoga and yoga classes which are both excellent for meditation and breathing practices.

Incorporate a positive, daily practice into your routine – make a list of activities that you enjoy and start taking time every week to incorporate more joy into your life, like walking the dog, playing golf, taking a road trip, or reading a book, etc.

Plan ahead – As the saying goes “failure to plan is planning to fail”.  To the person that is chronically stressed, simple concerns and daily struggles may cause an unusual amount of anxiety.  Planning ahead also gives you a greater sense of control, allowing you to make decisions more effectively on the day.

Sleep well – Aim for a minimum of 7 hours of sleep every day, 8 hours is the perfect number according to sleep experts.  Try to keep your sleep and wake time constant, keep your room dark and cool. Try to avoid bright lights before bed, bright lights at the wrong time of day will negatively affect the circadian rhythms of your  body.  Background noise has shown to be very effective in allowing you to sleep deeper– experiment with different sounds using an app on your phone, sounds of waves crashing, raindrops, or even something as simple as a fan.

Spend more time with uplifting, positive people and take part in activities with these individuals that bring joy to your life. Schedule more coffee dates and diners with people important to you, participate in group activities, like group classes at Urban Wellbeing or charity events.

Stay hydrated, eat nutritionally dense and balanced foods – Nutrient imbalances may contribute to anxiety and stress levels.  For example a magnesium deficiency may make you feel fatigued and unable to concentrate well, low blood sugar may make you feel irritable and high blood sugar will make you feel sluggish.

Exercise regularly – Did you know that exercising acutely releases “feel good hormones” known as endorphins.  Many psychologists believe the simple act of using our body for exercise is the most underused antidepressant in the world, and the most accessible.

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