Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Don't Let Stress Get the Better of You Don't Let Stress Get the Better of You Don't Let Stress Get the Better of You Don't Let Stress Get the Better of You; Ahead of National Stress Awareness Day on November 5, Abi Jackson Highlights Some of the Signs That Suggest You've Reached Your Limit

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Don't Let Stress Get the Better of You Don't Let Stress Get the Better of You Don't Let Stress Get the Better of You Don't Let Stress Get the Better of You; Ahead of National Stress Awareness Day on November 5, Abi Jackson Highlights Some of the Signs That Suggest You've Reached Your Limit

Article excerpt

Byline: Abi Jackson

STRESS, in many ways, is our friend. It's part of our programming, that automatic fight or flight response that helps us dash for cover when we spot danger, or knuckle down to get jobs done. It's all thanks to that surge of hormones - including adrenaline and cortisol - our bodies produce when the brain registers it's time for action.

But there are also times when stress is bad. When we're screeching, jaw clenched, that somebody is really "stressing us out", for instance, or yelling at everybody to get the heck out of the kitchen as we're juggling what feels like five billion trays in the oven and, any minute now - never mind the gravy - we're going to boil over.

That's stress when it's being a bit of a pain in the proverbial, but that's still very normal, and actually, quite helpful for getting stuff done. Once that irksome person's backed off, or the grub's on the table, your arteries are no longer bulging.

So when is stress a health concern? We've all seen the headlines; it's the modern epidemic, costing UK industries billions. Some 91 million working days are lost annually to mental ill-health, and half of these are related to stress and anxiety.

Work isn't the only factor; events and circumstances in somebody's personal life, and other health conditions, for example, can also contribute.

And while certain things - such as house moves, redundancy and exams - are recognised as being 'stressful', there's no way of measuring how much stress they'll cause and how this might affect one person from the next.

Stress is really a problem when it becomes a constant. When those adrenaline and cortisol surges are happening frequently, and calm is not being adequately restored between 'triggers', that you eventually end up being in a constant fight-or-flight state.

As a result, it can seem like your "stressed out" threshold gets lower and lower, and little demands become increasingly challenging.

It can manifest physically too, suppressing the immune system and wreaking havoc with your sleep and digestive system. Research suggests it can even affect memory function, and make us more sensitive to physical pain.

"Stress affects everyone differently, and what's stressful for one person may not be for another," says Emma Mamo, head of workplace wellbeing at mental health charity Mind. "However, there are some common symptoms to look out for."

MOOD AND CHARACTER CHANGES WHEN struggling with stress, it's usual to feel you've lost your patience, and find yourself being irritable and snappy.

"Long-term stress can increase irritability, aggression and anxiety," says Mamo. "It can lead to depression, poor concentration, and someone experiencing stress at work, for example, may struggle with seemingly simple tasks, including motivation, punctuality and decision-making.

They may behave differently - for example, a colleague who's normally outgoing and chatty might become quiet and withdrawn."

FEELING OVERWHELMED PERHAPS the clearest point that you've reached your stress tipping point is that desperate anxiety where you simply can't handle any more on your plate. You feel at bursting point, and any additional demands sent your way - no matter how small they seem to others - are going to tip you over the edge or make you explode.

Things you'd normally be able to handle now make you teary and afraid that you can't cope.

EXCESSIVE WORRYING WE'RE programmed to worry - it keeps us safe and functioning. But when you're suffering with stress, it's not unusual to find you're suddenly worrying much more about everything, and possibly having more negative thoughts than usual , which may be a symptom of anxiety too.

BEHAVIOUR CHANGES SOMETIMES, though we may not even be aware we're doing it at first, stress can make us change our behaviours.

This might be disengaging with hobbies, avoiding socialising, losing interest in things and neglecting physical appearance. …

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