Although it isn’t perhaps the way it should be, stress is an accepted part of modern life. We all know we shouldn’t get to the stage where work, relationships, money or other pressures cause unnecessary worry, but we’re all so acclimatised to it that it has become the norm rather than something out of the ordinary.
Strictly speaking, stress in itself isn’t always a bad thing. It’s our natural ‘fight or flight’ mechanism kicking in and through the release of adrenalin and cortisone (the stress hormone), it can make us more alert- it’s our natural reaction to sudden dangers. I know that I definitely can work better under pressure, or under a little stress as it can focus the mind and increase alertness. However, this is only the body’s short term response- in the longer term feeling stressed can lead to excess worries or pressures and in some circumstances even to mental health problems such as anxiety or depression.
This is where awareness comes in- it’s so important to recognise when your stress levels become too much and you need to either take a step back, re-examine your priorities or just stop. To deal with stress effectively, each of us needs to understand their own tolerances and at what point they need to let go. I know I’m terrible at this- I always take on too much and feel I need to fill every spare minute, but I’m lucky enough to have people close to me who not only notice when I’m under too much pressure but they pick up on this way before I do and as a result I’m able to tackle it before it becomes a problem. This is a weakness that I do need to address, but at least I’m aware it’s an issue and that it’s something I need to work on.
So when does stress become something worse?
If you’ve tried self-help techniques and they aren’t working, you should go to see your GP. They may suggest other coping techniques for you to try or recommend some form of counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy. If your stress is causing serious health problems, such as high blood pressure, you may need to take medication or further tests. Mental health issues, including stress, anxiety and depression, are the reason for one-in-five visits to a GP.*
* Sourced from the NHS pages on Stress, Anxiety and Depression