Recognising Stress and Coping Strategies

Are you finding that your life is speeding up and you are feeling lost and out of control? Is stress and worry taking over? The U.K has the longest working hours in Europe and in this age of austerity and social media it is very common to become overwhelmed.

April is stress awareness month and maybe it’s time to do some ‘spring cleaning’ to evaluate and re-balance your lifestyle. This blog will look at the different types of stress and how to manage some of its effects.

Most people will experience stress in their lives, which is normal but it may be useful to examine the levels of stress and the length of exposure. Stress is often labelled as the ‘silent killer’ and if left unchecked can severely affect mental health in the form of anxiety and also physical health, which can manifest in heart disease and high blood pressure.

stress awareness

Different Types of Stress

Stress is not always a negative thing and is a part of everyday life. The adrenaline response can help us in intense situations, for example in competitive sports. This can be seen as positive pressure and is healthy.

Acute Stress is defined as stress brought on by a specific situation such as trauma or a loss (e.g. relationships, work or bereavement) and will usually pass if worked through.

Chronic Stress is the enduring of stressors over a long and excessive period; this prolonged fight or flight response will drain your energy and can lead to panic attacks, compulsive obsessive behaviour and depressive episodes.

 

Signs of Negative Stress

  • Sleep difficulties
  • Loss of appetite
  • Poor concentration or poor memory retention
  • Performance dip
  • Uncharacteristic errors of missed deadlines
  • Anger or tantrums
  • Anti-social behaviour or violence
  • Emotional outbursts
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Nervous habits

 

The Maslach Burnout Inventory is a helpful tool online where you can self-report your feelings across the three main domains of burnout:

  1. Emotional Exhaustion: when you feel constantly over-extended in your job and out of your comfort zone all the time.
  2. Depersonalisation: when you stop caring about what your colleagues or customers think and just come in to do a job and go home again.
  3. Personal Accomplishment: when you stop finding the job rewarding; when it feels that you are no longer closely connected with the role or influencing the work.

 

How to Cope with Stress

I think the most important thing is to realise you are under too much stress and then to accept you can help yourself. Making small changes can go a long way. These are some of the most important self-help recommendations:

  • Leisure – A brisk walk in the park will reconnect you with nature and help you gather your thoughts and release positive endorphins. Have you considered going for a massage or joining a gym? Classes such as Yoga or Pilates are very good to practice focusing on yourself.
  • Diet – Cut down on refined foods, sugar and caffeine and increase your intake of fruit, vegetables and whole foods.
  • Sleep – A good-quality night’s sleep is very important and can improve mental functioning.
  • Relaxation – Finding a safe, quiet and relaxing place to cut off can be very conducive to well being. Taking deep breaths is very important for our relaxation and calming the mind.

Overall any change you make where you feel more relaxed afterwards will help. With most people this is a process of trial and error. As long as you are taking an active role in changing your lifestyle then this attention can help you feel more empowered.

Feel free to contact our counsellors at Hertford Counselling Service who will be happy to help you with more advice regarding stress-related issues.