7 Surprising Signs Of Stress
Are you taking care of your mental health? Stress can make you feel overwhelmed and burnt out, so it’s important to be able to recognise when you are stressed and take action to manage it. National Stress Awareness Day is in November, and so we have spoken with our Consultant Psychiatrist, Dr Rafael Euba, here at The London Psychiatry Centre, to find 7 surprising signs of stress to broaden awareness. What is often brushed off as ‘just part of modern day life’ can actually have quite a serious impact on your mental health.
The largest known study of stress levels in the UK was recently undertaken by YouGov; it revealed that in the past year 74% of people have felt so stressed they have been overwhelmed or unable to cope. The results of this survey bring to light just how common stress is and the significant number of people who are suffering with it. The study also found:
- 46% reported eating unhealthy food or too much food in response to stress.
- 29% reported they started drinking more in response to stress.
- 16% increased or started smoking in response to stress.
- 37% of those who reported being stressed also reported feeling lonely as a result.
- 51% of those who reported being stressed also felt depressed.
- 61% of those who reported being stressed also reported feeling anxious.
A study by Forth has suggested that 85% of UK adults are experiencing stress regularly, and 39% of UK adults admit they feel too stressed in their day to day lives. The most common causes of stress were cited as money, followed by work, health concerns, failure to get enough sleep and household chores.
Dr Euba comments: “Stress is a natural part of our lives. It feels counterintuitive, but it can be argued that we actually need a certain amount of psychological stress to be able to function and feel well. However, we all know that modern life can easily become too stressful. Work, family, social pressures, can all conspire to make our lives too difficult to manage.
“A specific difficulty we encounter in modern life is that we are not expected to switch off. We are constantly connected and always engaged.”
Stress often is seen alongside depression and anxiety – the three are very frequently connected. Our consultants at The London Psychiatry Centre are highly experienced in helping patients with a variety of mental health problems. If you feel like you need support, you can book a consultation by calling 020 7580 4224.
Why not take a few moments to be present, reflect, and think about how you feel? Dr Euba has outlined 7 surprising signs of stress below. If your answer is “yes” to these questions then you are probably stressed and need to re-evaluate your life and seek help.
Do I dread starting the day?
Morning anxiety can be improved by setting yourself a morning routine. This is an important technique for reducing that feeling of dread and anxiety. Simple things like waking up early enough that you don’t have to rush, and can take the time to sit and appreciate a cup of tea or coffee; the act of making your bed can encourage your brain to feel good for completing a task first thing in the morning; and a five or ten minute walk around the block will get your blood flowing and improve your mood instantly. Small changes like this can contribute to you to feeling more grounded, and more prepared, for the day ahead.
Do I have to multitask in order to be able to cope?
In the busy world that we live in, multitasking is somewhat of the norm. However the brain isn’t capable of intense multitasking on a long term basis and multitasking brings its own kind of cognitive stress.
In response to the stress of juggling multiple tasks, the brain sends stress hormones out which give you a burst of energy and concentration, but over an extended period of time, these stress hormones can have a negative impact on health, and can lead to chronic problems like heart disease and depression.
A group of Stanford researchers have shown that by doing less, you can achieve more. Unitasking, the act of working on a single thing at a time, has been shown to be more productive than multitasking. Focussing on fewer tasks at once allows full focus to be placed on the task at hand.
You can take some small steps towards unitasking by try keeping your phone or laptop out of sight when having face-to-face conversations, or even having the occasional technology-free meeting.
Am I always tense?
Take a moment to think about how your body feels right now. Is your jaw clenched? Are your shoulders up around your ears? Maybe you’ve noticed you’ve been getting headaches? When the body is stressed, its natural reaction is to tense up to protect against injury and pain. It’s normal for our bodies to hold tension, and whilst it’s beneficial to some degree, we can sometimes be so used to holding this tension that we don’t even realise we’re doing it.
Give your toes a wiggle. Now tense all the muscles in your feet, hold for a few seconds, then relax them. Move up your body, slowly tensing and relaxing each part of your body in turn. This can be an effective way of relieving some of the tension in the short term.
Do I have trouble sleeping?
Are you experiencing trouble either falling asleep or staying asleep? Insomnia can be a sign of stress and can cause a cycle whereby you can’t sleep because you are stressed, and the lack of sleep causes more stress.
If the insomnia is linked to stress, you should notice the symptoms fade as the stress passes. However, you can try some relaxation techniques like meditation which has been shown to improve insomnia. Even five to ten minutes a day before bed can be really beneficial.
Do I have trouble digesting my meals?
Have you noticed diarrhoea or constipation? Perhaps you’ve been feeling nauseous.
The stress response (fight or flight) can have a considerable impact on your digestion. Blood flow and contractions of the digestive muscles can both be affected by stress. It can also cause inflammation of your gastrointestinal system.
Eating a balanced diet that avoids sugar and alcohol can be beneficial, as can slowing down and relaxing when you are eating – instead of munching on the go, try to take the time to sit and savour your food.
Am I irritable with my partner?
Irritability is a stress emotion; it can make you feel grumpy and on edge. You may notice you get frustrated by small things that otherwise wouldn’t normally bother you.
You can reduce irritability by cutting back on your caffeine and alcohol intake – remember, even decaf drinks still have a small amount of caffeine in them, as does chocolate. Being physically active can also help to work off some of that energy, so grab your jacket and head outside for a quick walk or run. Alternatively, you could take some time to find somewhere quiet to disengage and take a break.
Do I have problems concentrating?
Trouble concentrating? Lack of focus? Whilst short term stress can actually heighten the senses and improve concentration, long term stress can impair the area of the brain responsible for short term learning and concentration.
Difficulty concentrating should subside when the stress passes, but in the short term you can try preventing distractions and using a timer to encourage periods of focus. You can also try breathing techniques: Breathe in for 5, hold for 2, breathe out for 7.
Stress relief: Advice for stress management
Dr Euba adds: “The most important aspect of stress management is recognition. We need to assess our lives and recognise the parts that are overloaded. We then need to either unload (if possible, of course) or otherwise seek support. It’s important to set our priorities and focus our efforts on important things only, and it’s also key that we learn to delegate and share responsibilities.”
If you are feeling stressed, anxious or depressed and would like help to feel better, our team of experienced private consultant psychiatrists and psychologists are able to provide help. Call now on 020 7580 4224 to discuss booking a consultation.