Spotting The Signs Of Stress
Spotting The Signs Of Stress
Gladeana McMahon (Life Coach) gives expert video advice on: What are the signs of stress?; What is stress?; How does stress affect us? and more...
What are the signs of stress?
Well, when you think about stress there are a number of signs or symptoms that are associated with it. They fall into four main categories: the first, the physical symptoms. For example, it could be headaches, it could be feeling slightly sick, you might get hot, you might get a cold, you might feel a bit shaky, possible tummy problems. Some people who have pre-dispositions for example, if you are the sort of person who gets rashes, you might find you start getting spotty, or that your aches might comes back again. If for example, you are the sort of person who has asthma that again, because you are predisposed to it. It might trigger an attack. So, there is a whole range of physical symptoms that people can get. The next kind of package is what we would call “thinking style.” Your thinking style gets affected so you become very negative. Everything is a problem, it is difficult. You do not know how to handle things. So you get into that kind of negative loop in your thinking. And that will very much drag you down. The third package is very much around the emotional side of it. So you might get irritable you might feel very sad, you might get very tearful. In severe cases, you can get panic attacks, anxiety, and depression. And then, the last part is very much about behavior. So the things that you do, you might engage in “comfort eating” as an example. So you eat a lot more chocolate or you are just engaging in a lot of eating. On the other hand, you might decide that having a glass of wine when you get at night will relax you. So that is another aspect of this particularly if you have sleeping problems which are very common. You might withdraw from relationships because it is all too much of a problem. It is just too difficult. And so really, you have the four packages: physical signs, thinking signs, emotional signs, and then of course, behavioral signs.
What is stress?
Stress is basically a biological reaction. We are pre-programmed to survive, so actually, it's a great survival mechanism. Let me give you an example. If you were going to put your foot down on a zebra crossing and suddenly a car came, in that instant, your brain will suddenly perceive a threat and what it will do is, it will push out a whole load of stress hormones. The idea being that you're on red alert, and therefore you can either run or you can fight, it's called "fight or flight", in a way which is most helpful to you. So get your foot on the zebra crossing, you want to get out of the situation as quickly as possible. So your body produces stress hormones. These are things like adrenaline, which is associated with the part of you that wants to run. Or noradrenalin which tends to make you more stroppy; you want to stay and you want to fight in those situations. You also produce other hormones, like cortizol. Now cortizol is a fabulous hormone, because it's something that is associated with a survival mechanism. But the problem is, too much of it, and it starts to turn in on itself. So for example, cortizol can affect your blood sugar levels. It can also affect, for example, your eating patterns. So you have these stress hormones, now the body also then says, having been shot up with these, "Hey, I want to close down all the non-essential items. I don't need, for example, blood in the extremities of my body." So you'll often find this is why people feel that their hands are cold, because it drains the blood away from the extremities and keeps them to the vital organs that you need. So you have that kind of a reaction. Your whole body is pumping itself, trying to cope. Another thing that happens to you, you will produce a lot of what we call fatty acids. Fundamentally, it's cholesterol. And one of the dangers about being stressed for too long is that if your body, which naturally produces cholesterol and the reason we do that in the stress response, is we need the energy. If it's naturally doing that and you're in a stressed state for a long period of time, you will actually find that 75 per cent of your cholesterol comes from stress, and only 25 per cent comes from what you eat.
How does stress affect us?
Your cholesterol levels will become higher, and so physically it puts you under an awful lot of pressure. It also affects you in terms of you might not think so clearly, you might become more accident prone. And again, the accidents are the dramatic ones. It's not about driving your car into a tree. It's more like knocking into things, little paper cuts, being more clumsy. You get forgetful so you know, you open up the oven and you wonder why you've put the milk in it! It's those kinds of things that people experience.
Why does stress affect us?
People allow stress to get to them, because when you think about it, you have to ask yourself what triggers the stress in the first place, and we have a very simple model that we worked in. We said, "Imagine a pair of scales, and they're nicely balanced. Now, when they're balanced, you might be a really busy person, but because they're balanced, all that is is pressure. Lots of people love pressure. They hate it when life is too boring. When the scales are not balanced, that means the demands that have been made of you are greater than the resources you have to cope, then your body perceives all this as a threat, and when that happens, it starts acting as if you are in real danger. If you think that the stress response is about survival, putting your foot on the zebra crossing and legging it, it's not really about when your boss says, "Oh, can you stay until seven o'clock and finish that report?" The problem is that our brain doesn't differentiate. It just thinks, "Lots of demands, I can't cope, I'm stressed."
Can stress be good for you?
Well, its an interesting debate that's going on at the moment about whether stress can be good for you. I think that the way to look at it is like this. Pressure is good and you can learn to cope with pressure and you can get better at coping with pressure. So challenging yourself, pushing yourself a little bit further to handle situations is not a bad thing. Its a bit like going to the gym, the more you do it, the stronger you get. However, stress is completely different. When you are stressed, your body is working against you. So the way that we would certainly look at it is you can increase your ability to deal with pressure and that is a good thing. But stress is never a good thing.
Can stress make you ill?
In severe cases, such as <a href="http://www.videojug.com/interview/post-traumatic-stress-disorder">post traumatic stress</a>, stress can actually make you become ill, because what it can do is that if you're under that prolonged pumping out of stress hormones, you're not sleeping, for example, and you're getting much more irritable, then your whole body is working against you. It is not uncommon. If you think of stress as being mild, moderate or severe, if you are severely stressed, it's like getting on the bus and going all the way to the terminus. If you're on the wrong bus, you've got a heck of a long way to come back, and it's at those points that people will potentially get heart problems, and they'll potentially get certain psychological problems like nervous breakdowns, depression, anxiety. Physiologically, stress can cause you a lot of illnesses.
What is burn-out?
It means that your body and your mind has been pushed beyond what it can cope with and now you are probably suffering from a whole range of emotional, psychological and physiological problems.
Is there a link between stress and self-esteem?
Now there's a debate around stress and self-esteem and it's an interesting one. The more stress you get, the less confident you get because you're not dealing with life so well. You suddenly feel as if your confidence is leaving you. On the other hand, if you already have no confidence and then life throws little problems at you, this also undermines you. There certainly is a link between self-esteem and stress.
Is stress a new issue?
Stress is not a new issue, in fact if you look around in some of the history books, it may not have been called stress, but all the symptoms that people get are well documented back hundreds and hundreds of years. I think what's happened is that we've now got a label for it, we call it stress. We've now got a terminology that we can use to say when you've got this package of issues, they you are stressed. I think that's what's new.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is a physiological and psychological condition. So for example, when you are anxious, your tummy's probably got butterfly's, and you might be a little bit shaky. Also, you're not breathing perhaps as deeply and normally as you would, because you're scared. I mean, anxiety is really an extreme form of fear. So you have that on one side. Now on the other side, emotionally it's all about fear, you're terrified. When you're anxious you are just packing it.