Stress can often be a response to mental or emotional pressure and in small doses, it can work well to motivate you (when working to a deadline, for example). If it becomes chronic, it can have negative effects on both mental and physical health, and can lead to mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression.
WHAT CAUSES STRESS?
Common causes of stress include ill health (especially for long term health conditions), bereavement, relationship difficulties or relationship breakdown, getting married, divorce, family estrangement, caring for relatives, moving house, disputes with neighbours, money problems including poverty and debt, problems at work, unemployment, starting a new job and retirement.
Stress can occur as a result of being under pressure, demanding situations and life changes. This does not need to be big factors; small changes can be just as much of a trigger if they happen one after another. Triggers can be one-off (such as moving house) or regular (such as bills or pressure at work).
Even supposedly “happy” things like getting married or having a baby can cause stress due to the changes that they bring.
Triggers can be individual and what causes stress for one person could be well tolerated by others and vice versa.
PHYSICAL SYMPTOMS OF STRESS
Stress produces cortisol and adrenaline as part of the “fight or flight” response. If this stress is infrequent or a one off occurrence, these hormones and their effects will disappear once it is no longer an issue. Chronic stress encourages these hormones to be released on a very regular basis and can make you feel unwell.
This can produce a range of physical symptoms such as:
- Stomach upset
- Chest pain
- Blurry eyesight
- Insomnia or difficulty staying asleep
- Grinding/clenching teeth
- Loss of libido
- Panic attacks
- Hyperventilation/shallow breathing
- Muscle tension
Stress can also affect the way that you behave, feel and think. These symptoms of stress can include:
- Lack of concentration
- Not being able to switch off
- Racing thoughts
- Eating too much or not eating enough
- Finding it hard to make decisions
- Avoiding situations that unnerve you e.g. social situations
- Feeling irritable and snapping at people
- Excessive drinking and/or smoking
- Feeling tearful
COPING WITH STRESS
You may not be able to prevent stress but you can find ways to manage it so that it doesn’t control you. This can include:
- Learning relaxation techniques
- Engaging in therapeutic activities
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can help with stress and anxiety. This is designed to break down the often vicious cycle between your thoughts, feelings and behaviour so that a negative reaction to situations does not cause unnecessary stress. CBT can help you to recognise whether your responses to particular situations are helpful or whether they are actually the worst case scenario. Unhelpful thinking can lead to more stress and anxiety but CBT can teach you how to tackle this.
HOW DERBY WOMEN’S CENTRE CAN HELP
Here at Derby Women’s Centre, we offer a few services that can help with stress and anxiety. Our one-to-one counselling is an opportunity to talk through issues in a non judgement and confidential environment and is CBT based so it can also help with negative thought patterns. We also have the Phoenix Group, a mental health self support group and a range of therapeutic activities throughout the year such as crafts and arts based workshops.