What is stress?
Stress is your body’s fight-or-flight response. You may feel extra energy surge through your body if you are in an emergency situation. You may also feel this energy if you are worried or anxious about something.
Signs of stress
People react to stress in different ways. There are some general signs of stress:
- Constant tiredness (fatigue)
- A change in eating habits
- An increase in the use of alcohol
- A change in usual bowel or bladder habits
- Aches or pains not caused by exercise
- A change in usual sleep patterns
- Emotional upsets (anger, anxiety, and depression)
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is a response to everyday stress. There are different levels of anxiety. Sometimes, it becomes an unpleasant, strong feeling of fear or dread. People who feel anxious may feel they are out of control with what is happening in their lives.
What can anxiety do?
Anxiety has many symptoms. Some are emotional and some are physical.
Anxiety comes from the release of chemicals, such as adrenalin, which cause the fight or flight” response.
Common Symptoms of anxiety
- Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
- Having a racing or pounding heartbeat
- Breathing problems (too rapid, short of breath or unable to breathe)
- Feeling like you will throw up
- Shaking or having shaking in your hands
- Having tense muscles in your face, neck, back or other areas
- Worrying a lot
- Feeling restless or irritable
- Having trouble concentrating
- Having problems sleeping due to worrying
- Avoiding situations that make you uncomfortable
If you’re feeling stressed, anxious or in a low mood, whether be that by your studies, job or something more personal, the first step to feeling better is to seek help from GP.
When seeking help they will help you identify the cause, and give you advice on how you can take control of the situation and adopt a positive outlook which is essential to good stress management. Not taking control and accessing support available can only make things worse. Turning to unhealthy habits to cope such as smoking or drinking is unhelpful and can exacerbate existing feelings of stress and anxiety as well as be detrimental to your overall health.
Stress and anxiety tips
It is important to have healthy strategies in place for when you are feeling stressed or anxious you can use to build emotional strength enabling you take control of any situation.
Feeling stressed and anxious is part of modern life, they affect both the mind and the body, and so effective stress-busters can address both. Look to incorporate one of the ten tips suggested below into your daily routine and see how your stress and anxiety levels change. Try each one until you find those that work best for you and try to incorporate them into your daily routine to reduce stress.
- Get moving – Feeling stressed, anxious or having low mood can often leave you feeling low in energy, which will reduce motivation to be more active. Regular exercise won’t make your stress or anxiety disappear, but it will reduce the intensity of some of your feelings, help clear your thoughts to deal with your emotions more calmly and useful for boosting your mood. Finding a form of exercise you enjoy will make it easier for you to find the motivation to do it regularly. You can take part in a team sport, attend classes at a leisure centre, or just be more active in your daily routine by walking or cycling instead of travelling by car or public transport. Even a brisk 10-minute walk will help you clear your mind and relax.
- Connect with people – A good support network of peers, friends and family can ease stress and help you see things in a different way. Activities we do with people from our support network help us relax have a good laugh with them, which is an excellent stress reliever. Connecting with people is important so that when you need it there is support there.
- Have some ‘me time’ – We all need to take some time for socialising, relaxation or exercise setting aside a couple of nights a week for some quality ‘you’ time” means you won’t be tempted to work overtime.
- Challenge yourself – Setting yourself goals and challenges, such as learning a new language or a new sport, helps build confidence. This can help you deal with stress. It arms you with knowledge and makes you want to do things rather than be passive, such as watching TV all the time.
- Avoid unhealthy habits – Don’t rely on unhealthy habits such as alcohol, smoking and caffeine as your ways of coping. In the long term, these crutches won’t solve your problems. They’ll just create new ones. It’s like putting your head in the sand, it might provide temporary relief, but it won’t make the problems disappear. You need to tackle the cause of your stress.
- Try to be positive – Look for the positives in life, and things for which you’re grateful. Appreciate what you have, try to be glass half full instead of glass half empty, writing down 3 things that went well, or for which you’re grateful, at the end of every day.
- Switch off from social media – Multitasking used to be seen as an accomplishment, but research has shown that multitasking is not an effective way to produce quality work. When focusing on a project or task, turn off notifications on your phone – or at least make it slightly harder to check them. It can be as simple as putting your phone on silent or on the other side of the room, so you don’t see every notification pop up.
- Hum a tune – Thinking of your favourite song and spending a minute or two humming a few verses can halt the stress cycle for a while. Humming helps relax tense muscles, blocks out the thoughts racing around our heads and makes sure we breathe more deeply and calmly. The result? A moment of peace.
- Try Mindfulness – Mindfulness and relaxation techniques are really effective in helping us to stay well and cope when our stress levels are high. At first try some basic mindfulness exercises or you can try breathing for relaxation.
- Eat a Healthy Diet – Eating a balanced and healthy diet is key to helping our bodies to manage the physiological changes caused by stress. An important part of any stress response includes identifying and reducing the causes of stress. Adrenal function is significantly influenced by blood sugar levels, therefore aim to stabilise levels of sugar in the blood. Choose whole, natural foods.