Health Tips

Understanding Stress

Wendy Ngai - Friday, August 01, 2014 | Comments (0)

A moderate amount of stress gets you excited about life, motivates you and improves your performance. It is when stress is too intense or continues for a prolonged period of time that it can become harmful and may have negative effects. Developing strategies to effectively manage stress helps us lead a healthy and happy life.

Circumstances that cause stress are called stressors and we experience a wide range of stressors every day. These may be common stressors including meeting deadlines, organising a busy day and even caring for a family member or major life events like changing jobs, getting married or losing a loved one. Some stressors may have a bigger impact than others. Individuals respond differently to different types of stressors and each of us have our own ways of handling stress. Some people may feel frustrated when deadlines approach, while others may thrive during these challenging periods. It is also important to remember that situations are experienced differently by people depending on their knowledge, experiences and skills. For example, witnessing a car accident may be stressful for a sales executive however may be experienced as a usual work event by a paramedic who is well trained and employed to respond to such situations.

Causes of stress

There are many different sources of stress and even positive life events may contribute to stress. Listed below are some examples of types of stressors.

Types of stressors

  • Personal (death of loved ones, accidents, injury)
  • Biological (illness, pregnancy)
  • Social or relationship problems (new job, unemployment, relocation, marriage, divorce or relationship difficulties)
  • Economic (financial difficulties or debts)

Signs and symptoms of stress

Stress can have a variety of effects including behavioural, mental, emotional and physical effects. Each of us may experience a combination of different symptoms which will vary from individual to individual. Listed below are signs and symptoms to look out for to determine if you are experiencing stress.

Signs and Symptoms of Stress
Physical Emotional Cognitive (thinking) Behavioural
  • Increased or irregular heartbeats
  • Tense muscles
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Aches and pains
  • Stomach discomfort or upsets
  • Feeling tired
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Skin problems
  • Often feeling anxious and fearful
  • Irritability and being easily angered
  • Moodiness
  • Feeling alone
  • Having trouble concentrating
  • Forgetfulness
  • Difficulties making decisions
  • Increased worrying or negative thoughts
  • Eating more or less
  • Sleeping more or less
  • Withdrawing or isolating yourself
  • Personality or behaviour changes
  • Social withdrawal or lack of confidence
  • Being easily distracted
  • Drinking or smoking excessively

Prolonged stress that is not managed may even lead to medical conditions such as

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart conditions
  • Depression, anxiety or other mental health concerns
  • Worsening of physical health conditions eg. asthma

Managing stress

Stress is inevitable, it is not something we can eliminate completely hence we can all benefit from developing our skills to manage it more effectively. Some stressors can be eliminated while others have to be accepted and managed. It is important to be equipped with different stress reducing methods to provide us a selection to choose from when we need to proactively cope with stress. Read more about strategies to manage stress.

Where to find help

Whilst some people may benefit from self help strategies, others may need some support to help manage their stress. There are support options available for people who may be finding their stress overwhelming. Speaking to a mental health professional to obtain guidance and ideas about how to more effectively manage your stress can help to improve you mental wellbeing. If you or someone close to you is having difficulties managing your stress talk to your doctor or refer to the Find Help- Services for Mental Health Support directory.

Source: Health Promotion Board