We all have to deal with stressful situations from time to time and, mostly, we’re able to cope without too much disruption to our daily lives.
Occasionally though, things can get on top of us and stress can begin to have a negative impact. In this situation, spotting the early signs and taking steps to relieve the pressure can prevent us from spiralling into more deep-seated mental health problems.
Stress can manifest itself in many different ways, from physical symptoms like migraines, muscle pain or skin rashes, to feelings of hopelessness and desperation. It’s important to listen to your body and notice these signals before they get out of hand. Here are a few of the signs to look out for:
Changes to your appetite: eating more, or eating less, could be your body’s way of coping with a challenging situation. If you find you have no appetite or, conversely, that you’re reaching for sugary or stodgy foods more frequently, it’s time to assess what’s going on in your life. Other symptoms include stomach-ache, diarrhoea and nausea.
Drinking more alcohol: some people use alcohol as a crutch when they’re finding it difficult to cope. It’s fine to enjoy a drink occasionally, but if you’re consuming more than the recommended weekly intake, you’re drinking every night, or find yourself saying statements like ‘I need a drink’, then stress could be the underlying cause.
Feeling agitated or unable to sit still: constant fidgeting, feeling uncomfortable, moving about in your chair, even yawning, can all be indications you’re feeling the strain.
Difficulty sleeping: nights can be a long and lonely time for people who are stressed and often people find themselves in a vicious circle. The less sleep they have, the more stressed they become. Insomnia is one of the leading signs that it’s time to look after yourself.
Muscle tension and pain: this is a reflex reaction to stress and is actually the body’s way to protect against injury. However, if the muscles are tense for long periods at a time, it has an adverse effect and can cause pain.
Lack of concentration: being unable to focus on the task in hand, feeling that your mind is wandering, or experiencing uncontrollable thoughts can all be caused by stress. Often stressed people find they make more mistakes and are more forgetful too.
Headaches and migraines: tension in the head and neck muscles, teeth-grinding and lack of sleep can all trigger headaches or migraines.
Skin rashes: hives are raised, red-coloured spots that can be very uncomfortable and can be triggered by stress. They’re often itchy or can cause a tingling and burning sensation. Some skin conditions, like psoriasis and eczema, are worsened by periods of prolonged stress, so if you’re in the midst of a flare up, think about what factors are causing it.
Loss of libido: many people find that losing interest in sex is one of the early signs of stress, anxiety and depression.
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