Identifying and Understanding the Impact of Stress

Understanding the Impact of Stress on Emotions, Physical Well-being, and Behaviour

Stress can trigger a wide range of emotions and physical reactions. When you are under stress, you may experience:

Emotional Responses:

  • Irritability, anger, impatience, or feeling wound up.
  • A sense of being overburdened or overwhelmed.
  • Anxiety, nervousness, or fear.
  • Racing thoughts and an inability to switch off.
  • An inability to enjoy yourself.
  • Feelings of depression.
  • A lack of interest in life.
  • The loss of your sense of humour.
  • A pervasive sense of dread.
  • Worry or tension.
  • A feeling of neglect or loneliness.
  • Exacerbation of pre-existing mental health issues.
  • Suicidal feelings in extreme cases, which can be highly distressing.

Physical Signs of Stress:

The body’s stress response can manifest in various physical symptoms, including:

  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Panic attacks.
  • Blurred vision or sore eyes.
  • Sleep disturbances.
  • Fatigue.
  • Muscle aches and headaches.
  • Chest pains and elevated blood pressure.
  • Indigestion or heartburn.
  • Gastrointestinal issues like constipation or diarrhoea.
  • Nausea, dizziness, or fainting.
  • Sudden weight fluctuations.
  • Skin problems such as rashes or itching.
  • Increased sweating.
  • Changes in your menstrual cycle.
  • Aggravation of pre-existing physical health conditions.

High levels of stress can intensify these physical effects, especially when stress persists over an extended period. In some cases, chronic stress may lead to more severe and long-term physical health problems, such as Takotsubo cardiomyopathy (often referred to as ‘broken heart’ syndrome), which mimics the symptoms of a heart attack.

Behavioural Responses:

Stress can significantly affect your behaviour, causing you to:

  •  Struggle with decision-making.
  • Experience difficulty in concentrating.
  • Encounter memory issues or slower recall.
  • Engage in constant worrying or feelings of dread.
  • Exhibit irritability and snap at others.
  • Engage in habits like nail-biting or skin-picking.
  • Grind your teeth or clench your jaw.
  • Encounter sexual problems, including a loss of interest or an inability to enjoy intimacy  or ED
  • Develop irregular eating habits, either overeating or undereating.
  • Increase substance use, such as smoking, recreational drug use, or alcohol consumption.
  • Feel restless and unable to sit still.
  • Cry or become tearful.
  • Overspend or engage in excessive shopping.
  • Reduce or increase exercise levels.
  • Withdraw from social interactions.
  • Using Alcohol, Sex, Gambling or Porn to self sooth

Stress can make you feel as though the world is closing in on you, causing a sense of suffocation and impending doom.

Causes of Stress: Numerous factors can contribute to stress, including:

·        High-pressure situations.

·        Significant life changes.

·        Worries or concerns.

·        A lack of control over outcomes.

·        Overwhelming responsibilities.

·        Monotony or insufficient stimulation in life.

·        Experiencing discrimination, hatred, or abuse.

·        Periods of uncertainty.

·        Loss of control

.        The news and social media

Stress can result from both major life events and the accumulation of minor stressors. Identifying the sources of stress can be challenging, and their impact may vary from person to person.

Factors Influencing Stress Reactions:

Your response to different stressors can depend on various factors, including:

·        Your comfort level in particular situations.

·        Concurrent life circumstances.

·        Past experiences and their impact on self-perception.

·        Available resources, including time and financial support.

·        The level of support from others.

. Triggers from the past

It’s important to note that what might cause stress for one person may not affect another in the same way. Some situations may induce stress intermittently rather than consistently.

Common Stress-Causing Situations:

Stress can stem from various areas of your life, such as:

Personal Life:

·        Illness or injury.

·        Pregnancy and becoming a parent.

·        Infertility or fertility challenges.

·        Bereavement.

·        Experiencing abuse.

·        Encounters with crime and the justice system.

·        Organising complex events like holidays.

·        Mundane tasks like household chores or commuting

Family and Social Relationships:

·        Marriage or civil partnerships.

·        Break-ups or divorces.

·        Challenging relationships with family or friends.

. Living in an unhappy relationship

·        Becoming a blended family

·        Acting as a caregiver.

. Excessive Mental load

Employment and Education:

·        Job loss.

·        Prolonged unemployment.

·        Retirement.

·        Examinations and deadlines.

·        Workplace stressors, difficult colleagues or boss

·        Transitioning to a new job.

Housing and Financial Issues:

·        Housing problems, including poor living conditions, insecurity, or homelessness.

·        Relocating.

·        Neighbourhood disputes.

Financial Stress:

·        Financial concerns or worries about benefits.

·        Living in poverty.

·        Managing debt.

. Financial abuse in a relationship.

. Carrying the financial load for a family

. Aging parental care

Social Factors:

·        Limited access to essential services like healthcare or transportation.

·        Navigating community-wide, national, or global stressful events, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

Note: Health stress has been an ongoing issue for many after Covid

·        Facing stigma or discrimination, including racism, homophobia, biphobia, or transphobia.

Even happy events, like weddings or having a baby, can introduce new and unique stressors due to the significant changes and increased demands associated with them. This can be especially challenging when societal expectations dictate that you should feel positive and excited during such moments.

Stress is a complex and individualised experience, and understanding its various triggers and effects is essential for managing and mitigating its impact on mental and physical well-being.

THE BREATH

The breath is the most important place to start when you are feeling stressed, who would have thought that most of us would not know how to breathe properly.

Shallow breathing is not going to be your friend if you are a stressed or an anxious person.

There is always a root to a problem, if you find yourself anxious or stressed, you may need to seek out a professional therapist to help identify the root. A professional will provide you with strategies and tools for self-management and prevention. Your Quality of Life is important!

Here is a tip to help calm your body:

Deep breathing

One of the simplest and most effective ways to calm the nervous system is through deep breathing (Harvard 2020).

There are no set rules, but one of the most popular techniques is the “4-7-8” technique.

How To Perform the 4-7-8 Breathing Exercise | Andrew Weil, M.D. – YouTube

This involves:

1.     inhaling for four counts

2.     holding for seven counts, and

3.     exhaling for eight counts.

There are many other ways to promote relaxation and reduce stress that work together with these techniques. These include:

  • spending time in nature
  • getting regular exercise
  • practising gratitude
  • engaging in creative activities such as art or music.

Overall, it is important to find strategies that work for you. Incorporate these strategies into your daily routine to best support your health.

Please remember DIPAC – Walk and Talk Therapy, it is called “Eco Therapy” Just write “Ecotherapy” in the notes when you book online. If you are time poor and find it hard to get your walk in, this may be for you.