Stress is a common human experience and most of us will experience stress from time to time. Although low levels of stress can be motivating and help us achieve things or respond to challenges in our daily life, increased and prolonged stress can have a significant impact on our physical and psychological health, leading to medical illness, as well as anxiety, depression and other mental health problems. Several things in life can cause stress such as family or relationships issues, work pressures, financial difficulties, life transitions etc.
Stress generally refers to people’s negative reaction to how they perceive aspects of their environment and it includes a sense of being unable to cope within it. People respond differently to stress but overall stress is an unpleasant and anxious, emotional state that can affect day-to-day behaviour and functioning.
Stress is an innate response rooted to our evolution as a species since our caveman days. It refers to our body’s reaction and our psychological response to perceived threat or pressure. The perceived threat or pressure automatically triggers a ‘fight-or-flight’ response that is activated by hormonal signals such as adrenaline and cortisol. This automatic bodily response prepares us to either fight the threat or to flee from it and protect ourselves. Nowadays, we rarely come across life-threating situations; however, our brains are programmed to react in that manner when we feel under pressure.
If you suffer from stress, you are likely to experience some or most of the following symptoms:
Physiological stress symptoms
- Chest pain
- Digestive and bowel problems
- Muscle tension or pain
- Sexual issues
Emotional stress symptoms
- Constant worry
- Irritability and short temper
- Feeling anxious and overwhelmed
- Low self-worth
- Poor concentration and memory
Behavioural stress symptoms
- Compulsive habits (e.g., pacing, leg shaking, tapping/fidgeting fingers, nail biting, touching hair/ears)
- Disturbed sleep
- Excessive drinking/smoking/drug usage to seek comfort
- Poor appetite or overeating
- Withdrawal from social activities