Feeling on the Edge: Stress

Feeling on the Edge: Stress

Feelings of tension and stress are common and may go hand in hand with physical symptoms such as sweating, a racing heart or feeling unwell. Most people get stressed at times in certain situations – admittedly some people do so more than others – and usually this feeling does not last for long. However, if symptoms of stress seem to be taking over your life, or if you feel increasingly anxious or even panicky, you may benefit from seeking professional help.

What actually is Stress?

Stress is pressure or worry caused by physical or emotional problems. Not all stress is bad for you. For example, thinking of an upcoming deadline can make you work harder, having to pick up the kids from school at a set time may prompt you to get the shopping done beforehand and having a baby may get you excited. A certain amount of stress can therefore be good for you-it can be stimulating and actually improve your quality of life.

However, people react differently as regards tolerating stress; some people seem to thrive on it, whereas others find that dealing with any change or events outside their daily routine is difficult. When stress rises above a certain level – perhaps when you’re going through a major life event such as getting married, getting divorced, moving house or changing jobs, or when you are finding increasing stress more difficult to deal with – you may develop actual symptoms of stress and suffer as a result.

Common causes of stress are as follows:

  • Exams: Many people find that coping with the pressure of exams, or having to speak or perform in public, is very stressful.
  • Family issues: You may have problems with your children, difficulties in a relationship or struggles in your role as a career.
  • Legal disputes: Court appearances in particular can be very stressful.
  • Money: Financial difficulties can cause a lot of stress.
  • Work: You may experience work problems such as bullying, employment disputes or other problems with your colleagues or boss.

Identifying stress can be difficult, particularly if it comes on gradually. But when you’re stressed you may notice any of the following symptoms:

  • You suffer from mood swings and feel low a lot of the time.
  • You feel anxious or irritable.
  • You feel your self-esteem dropping.
  • You find concentrating and remembering difficult.
  • You feel tired and lethargic.
  • You find getting to sleep difficult because you can’t switch off; alternatively, you wake regularly in the middle of the night.
  • You get headaches and other physical problems such as palpitations; a ‘knot’ in your stomach, other unexplained aches and pains, or increased sweating.
  • You drink more alcohol, coffee or tea than you normally do.
  • You eat more or much less than you usually do.

If you suffer from a chronic condition such as asthma, migraine or eczema, these illnesses may get worse when you’re stressed.

Some of these symptoms overlap with those of depression and too much stress can therefore lead to depression. If you find that you can’t function properly due to stress, particularly if you don’t get better and your symptoms last for longer than a couple of weeks, see your psychiatrist for further assessment.

Many people suffer from too much stress at times, which is nothing to be ashamed of. Don’t hesitate to seek professional help if you feel too stressed and this seems to affect your day-to-day life and your health in general-it can make all the difference.


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