Stress is a big problem. Australian’s mean score on the Perceived Stress Scale was 15.88 out of 40 according to the most recent survey by the Australian Psychological Society – indicative of a moderate level of stress. Sometimes stress can be good (when it fosters resilience, for example), but more often than not it’s something that stands between you and your goals. What are some of the signs of stress to watch out for, and how do you combat it when it’s present?
What are some signs of stress?
Though it might seem obvious that you’d notice when you’re starting to get stressed, sometimes the thing right in front of our nose is the hardest to see. However, there are a few tell-tale signs to watch out for:
1. Craving sweet or fatty foods
The phrase ‘stress eating’ is a phenomenon backed by science. Many studies have suggested that the cause of this may be high cortisol and insulin levels, or the ‘hunger hormone’ ghrelin, according to Harvard Health Publishing. In simple terms, stressed people crave these foods because they are effective – however temporarily – in reducing stress, inhibiting parts of the brain that produce negative emotions.
Being unable to sleep is often an indicator of stress. You lie awake staring a ceiling because you can’t turn your brain off. This is one of those symptoms that puts you into a vicious spiral – you’re stressed so you can’t sleep; then you’re tired and become more stressed as you can’t concentrate, leading to further insomnia and further stress.
3. Mood swings and irritability
Finding yourself content, then snapping at the smallest inconvenience is a solid sign of stress. When stressed it can feel as though you’re mentally juggling 10 knives – the smallest interruption or annoyance can bring things tumbling down. As with insomnia, riding the emotional rollercoaster everyday can contribute even more to your stress levels, increasing the tensions in working relationships and contributing to general exhaustion.
4. Performance impairment or burnout
Has your job performance failed to improve, or perhaps has started going backwards? Has the motivation to succeed in your job been sapped, to be replaced only with boredom and frustration? This too can be a consequence and a sign of stress. Worse still is a state of burnout, where you can no longer do your job at all.
How do you take action on stress?
The simple answer to relieving stress is to take a break from work. Sometimes the only way to reduce the pressure is to open the valve and let it escape, which is difficult to do while continuing to be in the environment that’s causing the stress.
The quickest – but temporary – solution to stress is to take a break.
Though effective as it may be, taking a break from your work is band-aid solution – it doesn’t treat the problem at its root. Doing this requires at least one of two solutions – changing the environment or changing your response to it.
Changing the environment might involve finding a new job, or talking with your employer about finding ways to reduce the stressfulness of your current position.
Changing your response could involve adopting a relaxation practice like mindfulness meditation, or seeking professional help to manage things like insomnia or anxiety. If you can’t change the things that are causing you stress, you need to find ways to deal with and reduce the it instead.
Don’t let stress destroy your potential. For more on becoming the best version of you possible, check out some other articles on Reo’s blog.
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