We’ve all heard of stress and suffer from it from time to time, but with the kind of hectic lifestyles many of us lead, it can be hard to escape it. From busy schedules at work to coping with personal issues, stress can be everywhere. But while some stress can actually be good for you, when it gets out of control, it can have a severe impact on your mental and physical health.

What is stress?

To put it simply, stress is the feeling you get when you’re completely overwhelmed or finding it hard to cope. It’s how your body reacts to difficult situations or mental or emotional strain. When any situation builds up to the point where you feel completely overloaded, your body goes into ‘fight or flight’ mode, otherwise known as the ‘stress response’.

When this kicks in, you may experience increased heart rate, more rapid breathing, a rise in blood pressure, or a tightening of the muscles. This is your body telling you that it’s received information it’s not sure how to cope with and it’s responding in the only way it knows how. By doing some or all of these things, it helps you to react to dangerous, insecure, or uncertain situations.

Stress levels are different for everyone, so what one person thinks is a highly stressful situation, might be easily overcome by someone else. Like many things in life, some people handle stress better than others. But not all stress is bad for you and small amounts can actually help in everyday life.

For example, a project at work might have a deadline of 5pm, but your boss has asked you to finish it by 2pm instead. The stress of a deadline being brought forward can actually help you focus and be more productive. Your body is capable of being able to handle smaller, everyday, stresses like these, but stress that goes deeper and lasts longer can have a severe impact.

Stress signs and symptoms

Everyone is affected by stress differently, so lots of elements can make you feel stressed affecting all areas of your life. But because people cope with stress differently, the signs and symptoms can vary greatly. This can depend on certain personal triggers, situations, and circumstances.

But there are plenty of common situations that can lead to stress for almost everyone. These include bereavement, relationship problems, financial problems, or work-related worry. But even good or positive things like moving house, starting a new job, or delivering a speech or presentation in front of hundreds of people can cause you stress.

All these things, good or bad, come with different levels of stress. But if you’re experiencing any of them, you might be suffering some of the more common physical or mental signs or symptoms of stress. These can include:

Physical signs or symptoms

  • Headaches or general aches and pains
  • Nausea, indigestion, or digestive issues
  • Increased heart rate
  • Rapid and/or shallow breathing
  • Sweating

Mental signs or symptoms

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Anger or aggression issues
  • Feeling frustrated or irritable
  • Sleep disturbance or insomnia

Whether you suffer from one group of symptoms or a mix of both, it could be a sign that stress is more deep-set and longer-lasting. As a consequence, you, or others around you, may notice a change in your behaviour.

You might feel yourself becoming uncertain about things, have difficulty in making decisions, become upset over things more easily, or find you have more reliance than usual on alcohol. Family, friends, or colleagues may also notice certain character changes as well, which can include becoming more irritable, more defensive, or even withdrawing from your social circle entirely.

The causes

As we said earlier, people can be triggered by a range of different situations or circumstances, all of which have the potential to cause stress. Some people are capable of taking almost anything in their stride and remain largely stress-free. For others, even the simplest tasks or daily issues can be a stressful experience.

But some of life’s most common challenges can be among the most stressful for people. Many of them are things we all have to deal with at some point in our lives and can lead to both mental and physical symptoms. These can include:

  • Bereavement
    The death of a close friend or family member is distressing. The process of grieving and learning how to adust can cause significant stress.
  • Finances
    Debt or money problems of any kind are a common cause of stress. Trying to cover your financial obligations can be worrying if you lose your job.
  • Ill health
    If you’re living with any long-term health conditions or disabilities, the added worry of your condition and your health in general can make it difficult to cope.
  • Work
    Many people find their jobs stressful from time to time, but work-related stress can have a hugely negative impact on your mental health and wellbeing.

Work-related stress is on the rise and it can have a big effect on people. According to a 2020 report from the Health and Safety Executive, 17.9m working days were lost in 2019/20 due to work-related stress. Affecting over 820,000 people, a heavy workload, lack of support, and workplace bullying were the biggest issues.

Helping yourself to beat stress

If long-term stress is a factor in your life, and you’re experiencing any of the signs and symptoms, there’s plenty you can do to help yourself. Start by acknowledging any of the symptoms you’re suffering from as.

By ignoring them, you could make the situation worse. In addressing them, you can identify the things that are causing you stress, both professionally and personally, and make long term lifestyle changes, to help you to reduce or eliminate stress altogether, including:

  • Seeking help and support from friends and family
  • Asking for support at work to relieve your workload or address ongoing issues
  • Exercising more and eating a healthy, balanced diet
  • Getting more and better sleep
  • Focusing on your mental wellbeing

Clearfocus for workplace stress

As specialists in workplace mental health and communications training, we know from personal experience how much stress can affect people. That’s why all our courses are specifically aimed at staff and managers and designed to give every staff member the right tools, information, and mindset to survive and thrive at work.

With workplace stress being so widespread, our Mental Health Training For Managers and Mental Health Training For Employees look to address these issues and help break down the barriers and stigma of mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.

And our Resilience & Wellbeing Training For Managers and Resilience & Wellbeing Training For Employees will also help to improve everyone’s workplace resilience to overcome any adversity, challenge, or stressful situation.

For more information and to book your course places, all of which can be delivered online or in-person at a venue of your choice (when restrictions allow), call us on 07831 119 941 or email us at info@clearfocustraining.co.uk today.

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