Stress symptoms and how to deal with them
When we say that we’re ‘stressed’, it’s usually in one of the following response areas: physical, mental, emotional, behavioural, or a combination of more than one of these.
How do these symptoms manifest themselves?
Let’s look at some examples of how we’ll typically be affected...
Physically – palpitations, excessive sweating, indigestion, skin complaints, headaches, stomach problems, back ache, breathlessness, hot flushes and tiredness.
Mentally – loss of concentration, over-sensitivity, worrying, persistent negative thoughts, indecision, undervaluing oneself, finding fault with others, memory failing, demotivated and making mistakes.
Emotionally – irritability, more gloomy, depressed, drained, no enthusiasm, cynical, feeling tense, feeling of pointlessness, loss of confidence, less satisfaction in life, alienated, reduced self-esteem, nervous and anxious.
Behaviourally – unsociability, restlessness, loss of appetite or over-eating, disturbed sleep, not looking after oneself, bad driving, accident-prone, unable to unwind and increased problems at home.
(These are just some examples, and of course may be due to something other than a stress response)
The four areas are of course linked, and one area can lead to another – we’ll think negatively for example, become tense and nervous, get back ache, become unsociable, not look after ourselves and so on in a vicious cycle. We can end up thinking, feeling and behaving in ways that aren’t helpful for us.
The good news is that as it’s a cycle, making an improvement in one area is likely to lead to improvements in other areas. If we can start to behave differently, express ourselves more, reach out more if we haven’t been doing that for example, this can lead to our feeling better, thinking better and so on.
Let’s consider for a minute the thinking (mental) sphere, which can lead us to experience some of the symptoms mentioned above. This will often be the first stage of the ‘stress cycle’; how we interpret and react to our thoughts, people and situations we come across; our thinking style and attitudes.
Here are some examples – thinking errors, of how we can think our way into trouble:
- Being overly negative/discounting the positive.
- Not being self-compassionate.
- Jumping to conclusions.
- Thinking in all-or-nothing terms.
Do you ever find yourself doing any of these? Not many of us could say we’ve never done any of them. Problems can arise when we’re repeat offenders and/or we’re not aware we’re doing them, and they get in the way of our presenting the best version of ourselves, and making the most of situations.
Let’s note too that because we can think our way into trouble, this means that we can think our way out of trouble too (easier said than done for sure!).
Just noticing that we’re thinking in these ways is the first step to doing something about it. Being mindful, self-aware and emotionally intelligent, practising and learning how to develop these skills is liable to be helpful if we’re thinking in unhelpful ways.
Next time you find yourself getting worked up or stressed, do ask yourself if you might be engaging in one or other of the thinking errors we’ve discussed above.
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About Marc Kirby
Marc has been involved in training, coaching and developing people for over 30 years. His interest is in supporting individuals to make the most of themselves; to maximise their potential; to perform to their best and to live their lives to the full. He runs Stress Management Plus, and Developing Connections, in Reading, Berkshire.