Stress is a common side effect of our busy lifestyles. There’s no stigma in admitting you’re feeling stressed out, but stress is a serious medical condition that can lead to both mental and physical symptoms and ill health, so don’t ignore these signs:
Mentally you might feel:
- Worried or anxious
- Angry and bad-tempered
- Always hungry, or having no appetite
- Constantly tired
- Sleepless or tired
- Unable to concentrate
- Chest pains
- Cramps and achiness
- Twitches or pins and needles
- Problems in bed including a lowered sex drive or erectile dysfunction
- Digestive problems such as constipation or diarrhoea
- Dizziness or fainting
- Feeling antsy or restless
- Feeling breathless
- Feeling nervous, which might manifest in behaviour such as nail biting
You don’t need to tick all the boxes to be stressed; just one or two of the symptoms could be your body trying to tell you something.
What does stress do to your body?
Stress is a coping mechanism that causes your body to release hormones to help you cope with difficult situations. These include cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline. Though this may help you cope in the short term, these hormones are what cause many of your symptoms.
If you’re stressed over a period of time this can make you more susceptible to illness as it can affect your immune system. The unbalanced hormones may also change the way your body processes sugars in your food and can lead to weight gain – which may make you even more stressed.
[Related link: How yoga can de-stress]
What can you do?
There are a number of ways to deal with stress, including keeping a stress journal and taking regular exercise. If you are unable to bring down your stress levels yourself, speak to your GP about management techniques.
There are medications for stress but long-term tranquiliser prescriptions aren’t recommended as they treat the symptoms rather than the cause.