For many of us, talking about how stressed we are has become as normal as complaining about the weather 🌧
But stress is actually kind of a big deal. Prolonged stress can have a significant impact on our mind and bodies, affecting memory, digestion, sleep, our immune systems, and (according to recent research) even making us less empathetic.
As Stress Awareness Month begins, here’s our guide to spotting the signs of stress, and managing its symptoms.
What is stress?
Stress is a physical and psychological response to emotional pressure. It’s usually linked to situations over which we feel we don’t have control, are unexpected or demand a great deal of energy.
Stress is often a consequence of over-working, but is also associated with those facing financial insecurity, those in minority ethnic groups and people with long-term health conditions.
Common signs of stress
- Feeling irritable
- Difficulty making decisions
- Difficulty sleeping
- Lost sense of humour
- Loss of interest in things
- Constant worrying
- Chest pains
- Difficulty concentrating
- Over- or under-eating
How to manage stress: Five tips for a less stressful life
1. Pay attention to signs of stress and take breaks when you need them
Rather than waiting until you reach burnout to take action, pay attention to the more minor signs of stress before they turn into something more severe. Check in with yourself regularly and take breaks when you need them. Remember: rest is productive.
2. Prioritise self-care
Mental and physical health go hand in hand, so make sure you’re well-nourished and well-rested. Make time for things you enjoy, and invest in activities that make you feel fulfilled and whole.
3. Surround yourself with a strong support network
Being vulnerable isn’t always easy, but it makes us so much more resilient and helps us feel more connected to those around us. Surround yourself with people who support you and allow you to be your authentic self, and ask for help when you’re struggling. Connecting with people from your own faith can sometimes help too (here's a handy page on how Muslims cope with stress).
4. Upgrade your sleep routine
Stress and insomnia can perpetuate one another in a vicious cycle: the more we stress, the less we sleep. And the less we sleep, the more we stress. Break the cycle with a good sleep routine: stick to a regular bedtime, and avoid afternoon caffeine and late-night social media scrolling.
5. Get help
If you’ve been experiencing high levels of stress for a long time, or if your stress feels overwhelming, seek professional help from a doctor or therapist. Stress may feel manageable day-to-day, but long-term can build up and culminate in burnout, depression or other more serious health problems.