How often have you found yourself worrying that you’ll never get to the end of your to do list, panicking about mounting deadlines, or feeling overwhelmed by your responsibilities? When did it become almost normal for people to compare notes about how busy and stressed out they are?
Stress can have some positive aspects: if we weren’t able to feel stress, we would all have been eaten by sabre-toothed tigers long ago! Stress is basically a physical response to an outside threat, in which hormones and chemicals are released to prepare the body for ‘fight or flight’. However, stress can have harmful effects on your health if your body goes into a state of stress in inappropriate situations, and especially if the stress continues over time.
A common definition of stress, which many people will recognize, is that it is a person’s reaction when the pressure placed upon them is greater than their ability to cope. Stress may come from a number of different directions such as work or home, and people often apply excessive pressure on themselves, as they try to be perfect in every single area of their lives.
Figures from a recent study revealed that almost 1 in every 60 people in Britain suffers from work-related stress, depression, or anxiety, and that just under 12 million working days were lost between 2015 and 2016, an average of 24 days per person affected.
Stress affects different people in different ways: symptoms can range from psychological, such as insomnia or waking up more tired than when you went to bed; feeling emotional over things that would normally wash over you or experiencing mood swings; physical symptoms such as aches, pains, or muscle tension (teeth grinding is a fairly common example); or behavioural changes such as neglecting to make time for things you used to enjoy or feeling unusually aggressive or angry. These are just a few examples of how stress can affect you.
Symptoms of stress often pile up over time until you can no longer ignore them. However, even then, many people try to rationalize their symptoms away and pretend they’re not really happening. Behavioural symptoms are typically the first ones to be noticed, probably because they are more obvious, not only to yourself but to others, but may have been going on for many months before they are finally recognized.
It’s important to understand and find a way to cope with stress as, unfortunately, we can never completely avoid it. The International Stress Management AssociationUK (ISMAUK) was established over 30 years ago to promote sound knowledge and best practice in stress management, both nationally and internationally. They host a number of events every year, including National Stress Awareness Day. This year marks the 20th anniversary of Stress Awareness Day, and the Association is celebrating by devoting an entire week from 5th-9th November to a programme of live and online events, including a one-day stress conference, a global online summit, and an all-day national stress helpline.
To see how you can become involved in Stress Awareness Week, visit https://isma.org.uk/images/pdf/WHATS-ON-International-Stress-Awareness-Week.pdf, or go to https://isma.org.uk/ to find out more ISMAUK; you can also download factsheets on stress and tips on how it can be managed at https://isma.org.uk/nsad-free-downloads.