In February, Bloomberg reported on a study showing that the stress levels of Americans had reached its highest point since the survey began a decade ago. Not the kind of stress that helps us to go the extra mile, but the long term, unpleasant version that leads to more serious health problems.
Here's how the NHS describe the difference:
stress causes a surge of hormones in your body. These stress hormones are released to enable you to deal with pressures or threats - the so-called "fight or flight" response.
Once the pressure or threat has passed, your stress hormone levels will usually return to normal. However, if you're constantly under stress, these hormones will remain in your body, leading to the symptoms of stress.
If left unchecked, stress can in the long term develop into a chronic issue which will have detrimental effects on mental and physical wellbeing, and possibly developed into an anxiety disorder or depression. As an example of the severity of stress in modern society, HSE reported that there were 488,000 cases of workplace stress, anxiety and depression in 2015/16 in the UK alone.
While it is actively encouraged and essential to look after mental and physical health, people often don't know what signs to look out for. Worryingly, many of us don't recognise the hidden symptoms of stress, and these are simply ignored or attributed to something else. Not being able to spot signs of stress early on, and not knowing how to reduce stress, can lead to long-term illness and disease. Being able to recognise the different symptoms of stress, is the first step to being able to understand and manage it.
How many of these hidden symptoms do you recognise?
Constant stressful scenarios can increase the baseline arousal level, making it higher than usual. This can lead to an increase in panic attacks. Here's what to do to spot one and what you can do about it.
A stressful lifestyle can severely impact sleeping patterns, increases rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and interrupting the deep stages of sleep, disrupting cell and body repair.
Staring at a computer screen all day without a break, a lack of sleep or even that last pint, are all things that we commonly attribute to the growing pain in our head. However, a headache is a common reaction to the physical responses related to stress. Grinding teeth, clenching jaws and tensing facial muscles are all responses to stressful situations and can all lead to headaches.
Chronic stress can also frequently lead to common nervous habits such as restlessness in the form of constantly tapping feet or hands.
With increased levels of stress, comes increased levels of the cortisol hormone. This causes issues with skin as acne can start to form, commonly on one's hands. Alongside this, the various stresses and anxious moments in life can manifest through inflammation on the skin, this can cause or worsen eczema regardless as to whether it's been an issue previously.
Stress can manifest itself in a variety of different physical, mental and emotional ailments. For example, feeling humourless, lonely and unable to switch off can often lead to becoming more detached from friends, family members and colleagues.
If you've ever found yourself reacting to every demand on your skills at your job defensively, or with a stressful reaction, or if you've ever found yourself yelling at your kids when you clearly didn't need to, or worrying about something that didn't in the end need much worrying, you already suffer from too much stress.
But it's difficult for people to accept this because we're taught from early childhood to be of service, to work hard, and to ignore the effects of stress In fact, it's difficult not to. The problem is, if you don't work actively to become more emotionally intelligent and more data intelligent about stress, eventually it will become something that can reduce your productivity and make you into a less useful member of your society and your family.
I would also suggest reviewing the helpful resources that Mind, the mental health charity, have put together to help identify the signs of stress and chronic stress. By recognising the signs of stress you're already taking steps to manage it.
By recognising the signs of stress you’re already taking steps to manage it. For additional information take a look at Hear and Now, an app scientifically proven, to help users harness stress and reduce your anxiety