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The word stress is usually used to describe the feelings that people experience when the demands made on them are greater than their ability to cope. At such times people can often feel overloaded, under tremendous pressure and very tense or emotional. Stress affects everyone, young and old and is a completely normal reaction that all human beings will experience from time to time when faced with situations that they feel under pressure in.

Stress can be looked at in terms of external and internal stressors. External stressors are sources of stress that we are aware of around us, these can include traumas, life experiences or simply daily hassles. Internal stressors are the sources of stress that are inside us and are often the most common sources of stress. They are the thoughts and feelings that pop into your head and cause you to feel unease, these can include unrealistic expectations, uncertainties, low self esteem and apprehensions.

The work place is also known to be a key factor in stress. A study conducted by the International Stress Management Association found that more than half of people in work had suffered from stress over a period of a year. Also, statistics have shown that a quarter of working people had taken time off sick due to stress and that stress is the leading cause of sick leave. Common causes of stress at work include; workloads, long hours, responsibilities, role expectations, bullying or harassment, lack of job security, poor working environment, the organisational structure, career development and lack of support.

Stress can manifest itself as many different symptoms, ranging from physical to psychological and behavioural, and people may experience these to varying degrees. Physical symptoms can include; increased heart rate, sweaty palms, muscle tension, sleep disturbance, fatigue, vomiting, change in breathing patterns, dry mouth, headaches, nausea or dizziness, indigestion or heartburn and sudden weight loss or gain. Psychological symptoms can include anxious thoughts, irritability, low self esteem and confidence, inability to concentrate, feeling fearful, feeling unable to cope, difficulty making decisions, feeling negative and lack of interest in life, feeling alone, loss of creativity, withdrawal, frustration and confusion. Behavioural symptoms can include altered sleep patterns, use of drugs or alcohol, changes in appetite, avoiding situations, changing habits, nail biting, teeth grinding, neglect of physical appearance, lack of communication, putting off difficult jobs and giving excuses.

Identifying what makes you feel stressed and the physical, psychological and behavioural symptoms associated with these stressful events is the first step in helping to manage the stress that you experience. There are many suggested methods of dealing with stress, including looking into using relaxation and breathing exercises. Sleep and diet are also important factors when dealing with stress and steps can be taken to improve these. Some people also find practising stopping unwanted thoughts and taking steps to distract themselves can help reduce some of the symptoms of stress. Similarly practicing skills such as being assertive and prioritising activities can also be useful

Therapy can also be an option to help reduce stress and cognitive behavioural therapy, counselling, hypnotherapy and neuro-linguistic processing have all been used to treat stress.

DIY self diagnosis

If you can answer yes to 5 or more of these symptoms then you may be suffering with stress.

  • Obesity and Over-eating
  • Increased or excessive drinking of alcohol
  • Loss of appetite
  • If you smoke – you’ll smoke more
  • Increased coffee consumption
  • Excessive and continuing irritability with other people
  • Substance Abuse
  • You can’t make decisions, large or small.
  • Unable to concentrate – (common symptom of stress)
  • Increased and suppressed anger
  • Not be able to cope with life, feeling out of control
  • Jump from one job to another without finishing things
  • Excessive emotion & crying at small irritations
  • Lack of interest in anything other than work
  • Permanently tired even after sleep – (another very common symptom of stress)
  • Decreased sex drive / libido
  • Stress can cause Nail biting

Anxiety UK strongly advises that people seek further information and guidance from their GP who will be able to make a formal diagnosis.

Want to know more?

The Anxiety UK site has information on a range of products to provide more detailed information and help with stress.

Overcoming stress

Overcoming Stress was written by Lee Brosan and Gillian Todd and is part of the highly successful ‘Overcoming series’. In this CBT based self help guide the authors help you to recognise what happens when under stress and how to change how you think, feel and act so that you learn to retain a balanced outlook on life and manage it more effectively too. You can purchase Overcoming Stress from the Anxiety UK shop by clicking here.

Overcoming perfectionism

Perfectionism can be healthy but when it becomes unhealthy and turns into “clinical perfectionism” (sometimes referred to as “dysfunctional perfectionism”) it can cause serious problems.  Those suffering from clinical perfectionism tend to judge themselves predominantly in terms of the pursuit and attainment of personally demanding standards and often feel unable to be flexible and change their goals, despite the significant negative impact that the pursuit of perfectionism may have on their quality of life.

The book covers how clinical perfectionism manifests itself and suggests effective coping strategies with invaluable guidance on how to avoid future relapse. You can purchase Overcoming Perfectionism from the Anxiety UK shop by clicking here.

How we can help

Anxiety UK is a user-led charity with more than forty years experience in supporting those living with anxiety. By becoming a member of Anxiety UK, you will have access to a range of benefits, including:

  • Access to reduced cost therapy within two weeks of submitting your therapy request
  • Access to our infoline, email, text and live chat services (available Monday-Friday, 9:30 am – 5:30 pm) staffed by volunteers with personal experience of anxiety
  • Receipt of four issues of Anxious Times, our quarterly members” magazine
  • Access to the members only section of our website, featuring regular support surgeries facilitated by anxiety experts
  • Access to specialist helplines, including the psychiatric pharmacy helpline

And many, many other benefits that will help you manage your anxiety long term. To become a member of Anxiety UK click here or ring 08444 775 774 today.

Helpful link

The organisation has a helpful e-book for coping with stress. You can download it on their website by clicking here.

Personal experiences

Do you suffer from stress and want to share your experience with other people? Post your personal experience in the comments box below where it will be sent to our moderator for approval. Many people find this part of the site very useful when trying to understand their disorder so your comments really do make a difference. Please note, all comments submitted to the Anxiety UK website may be used by Anxiety UK for (but not limited to) publicity and promotional material.

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