April is stress awareness month.
Stress is an emotional state that as humans, we all experience in our day-to-day. It is our body’s way of responding to demands or perceived threats. To enable us to navigate stressful situations, our body will activate a “fight-or-flight” survival response – a process whereby our bodies will release hormones that would prepare us to either deal with a perceived demand/threat or flee from it.
It is important to recognise that some stress is ‘good’ stress, as it motivates us to complete challenging tasks or allows us to focus on things that require our attention.
It is also important to note that each individual experiences and perceives the world around them differently – meaning that two people can experience the same event(s) in different ways and that all stress is valid, regardless of the circumstances leading up to a person feeling this way.
But when does stress become a problem?
Long-term or ‘chronic’ stress is experienced when an individual has been under significant amounts of pressure for extended periods of time. It can lead to a variety of physical, mental and emotional symptoms that may lead us to develop mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety and PTSD.
When the “fight-or-flight” response is activated too frequently for the body to be able to recover, we experience exhaustion. Exhaustion can lead other important systems and processes within our body to be disrupted, due to lack of energy. An example of how chronic stress can affect bodily functions may include someone experiencing constipation or diarrhoea, a direct result of disruption to the digestive system.
How do I manage stress?
There are many methods we can use to help us reduce or manage our experiences of stress. One thing to be aware of here is that similar to how two people can experience stress differently, two people may find different coping strategies to have varying levels of success. An example of a way stress can be managed would be through use of grounding techniques, which are exercises that help us to shift our attention away from perceived demands and threats we have been exposed to, allowing our bodies time to recover and reducing the chance we will experience any long-term side effects of stress.
For more information on different coping strategies, follow the link to Trauma Research UK’s website here: https://traumaresearchuk.org/grounding-techniques/
Where can I learn more about stress and how to seek support?
For more information on stress, its impact and if you are struggling with this, you can follow the links below: