‘Stress’ describes our physical and emotional response to a demand or ‘stressor’ in our environment. Many things that stress us are real, but we can also ‘turn on’ the stress response with negative thoughts, beliefs or attitudes. Sometimes we respond to stressful situations by creating even more stress in our bodies by overeating, smoking, drinking too much alcohol or coffee and not exercising. Not all stress is bad. Stress is a natural occurrence in life and everyday stress is necessary for growth and development. The human nervous system is designed to cope with a degree of stimulation. Most people enjoy being stimulated or challenged. If we can unwind and recover afterwards there are no harmful effects. The danger lies in too much stress or prolonged stress. At first we may become tired and irritable but if the stress continues and is not dealt with effectively the result can be physical and mental ill-health. Our stress response may be activated by extreme danger or intense pleasure. More usually, we encounter numerous potentially stressful experiences in our everyday lives such as work, relationships, losses, lack of time, boredom, money worries and many more. Stress levels are individual – what one person may experience as energising another may find stressful. Taking action on stress may involve managing the stress response and/or dealing with the stressor. Remember that your capacity to cope with stress changes at different times and stages of your life.*
- Losing your zest for life; losing interest in family, friends or work.
- Changes in your sleeping patterns.
- Nervous ‘twitches’ or muscle spasms.
- Indigestion, stomach upsets.
- Pains in lower back, chest, shoulders, joints or other parts of the body.
- Skin itches or rashes for no apparent reason.
- Frequent colds or flu.
- Shortness of breath or shallow breathing.
- Memory or concentration problems.
- Feeling anxious and tense for no obvious reason.
- Finding it hard to make decisions.
- Tearfulness for no apparent reason.
- Feeling impatient or irritable.
- Losing confidence.
- Mental Health Foundation of NZ
☎ 09 300 7030