Stress can affect everyone at different levels. Stress present in small amounts such as that experienced when meeting a deadline or a challenge can be motivating. However if stress levels are continuing for extended periods of time that can start to play a detrimental effect on an individual’s health. Stress can affect everyone differently, below are the most noted effects of long term stress.
Effect on the body:
- Sleep disturbance
- Elevation in blood pressure
- Weakened immune system
- Muscle tension
Effect on the mind:
- Increase to anxiety
- Increase worry
- Increase in anger
- Increase to irritability
- Feelings of being overwhelmed or out of control
- Low self esteem
- Difficulty concentrating
Effect on Behaviour:
- Over or under eating
- Angry outbursts- generally over nothing
- Increase in alcohol, smoking or drug use/abuse
- Anti-social tendencies
Everyone encounters stressful situations at times, and learning to manage stress can involve different strategies. This can include:
- Monitoring stress: being able to identify your triggers, or what makes you feel stressed. Notice the warning signs that you are becoming stressed (these may include muscle tension, being irritable or tired).
- Changing the stressor: some stressors can be changed while others may be beyond your control. For example if work is causing your stress you may be able to make changes to your work hours or job duties. Postpone major life changes such as moving house if you are already stressed.
- Exercise: it has been found that regular participation in aerobic exercise has been shown to decrease overall levels of tension, elevate and stabilize mood, improve sleep, and improve self-esteem. Even five minutes of aerobic exercise can stimulate anti-anxiety effects.
- Relaxation: deep breathing exercises, muscle relaxation exercises, yoga and meditation are some techniques that can relax the body and reduce stress.
- Spend time with family or friends: being with people you find uplifting, resolving personal conflicts, and talking about your feelings can help.
- Look after your health: maintain a healthy diet, ensure you get enough sleep and avoid using drugs and alcohol to cope.
- Do things you enjoy.