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What Do We Mean By Stress?

Stress affects us all. It may be characterised as feeling down, irritable or unable to concentrate. This common experience is the way we respond to demands that are made of us by other people, or even by ourselves. Common causes of stress include:

  • Exams or job interviews
  • Work pressures
  • Receiving unhappy news
  • Living with teenagers
  • Planning an important event, such as a wedding, or moving house
  • You keep losing your temper or feeling angry about things
  • You can't slow down, or are unable to relax

It can lead to problems such as the inability to relax or slow down, losing your temper quickly and easily or feeling angry about things. If left unchecked it can lead to anxiety, sleeping problems, loss of appetite and even depression.

Stress can affect how we think about ourselves and what is happening to us. Typical stress-related thoughts include: “I can’t cope, this is too difficult for me”, “‘I’ve just got too much to do; I’ll never be able to get everything done and if I don’t, something will go disastrously wrong”, “It’s not fair, these sort of things don’t happen to other people”, “I’m such a failure, I’ll never be able to sort this out.”

When we’re stressed we may notice the following physical signs:

  • The need to breathe faster to increase oxygen in the body
  • Muscular aches and pains
  • Headaches, backaches
  • Stomach aches, indigestion, heartburn, constipation or diarrhoea
  • Problems with breathing, or with our hearts
  • Problems with our skin, such as eczema or rashes

It’s quite usual to behave slightly differently from normal when we’re feeling stressed. Common stress-related behaviour includes:

  • Losing our tempers
  • Drinking or eating or smoking too much
  • Running away or avoiding the difficult situation
  • Over-reacting to a situation
  • Being in a constant rush

If these sound familiar to you, then it’s likely that you may be experiencing problems with stress. You may not experience all of them, and people vary widely in the types of problems and symptoms they experience but these are the kinds of things to look out for.