Everybody gets stressed from time to time, and the stress response is a vital cog in the human machine – worrying is, after all, a form of thinking. However, to be happy and successful it’s important to have a sense of control over one’s whereabouts on the stress spectrum and to ensure that the mechanisms that your body employs to respond to stress are providing creative solutions rather than destructive side-effects.
Stress is often accompanied by a foggy mind, so it’s helpful to have a clear, objective method to assess whether the condition is dragging you down or stimulating you to better results. The diagram below combines insight from the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy and the Stress Management Society into a walk-through guide to the symptoms of stress and how seriously they should be taken.
Poor sleep, bad drinking habits and impaired social aptitude are just some of the complex issues that may arise as a result of changing stress levels, with the nuances between different types of insomnia, for example, providing useful clues to the severity of your stress. Snapping at people for no apparent reason can be a big warning sign that you need professional help, whereas a more general feeling of isolation can mean it’s time to make the effort to reconnect with your informal support group – and let them know how you feel.
An occasional drink to relax before bed is not, on its own, something to worry about, although the guide suggests that it could be a cue to look towards healthier methods of coping with routine stress – such as meditation, exercise, or working on a more positive self-image. But if you’ve been drinking more than usual and you feel unwell in yourself, it may be best to seek out external support to get you back on track.
It is natural to have ups and downs and life would be unrewarding if we didn’t have to raise ourselves to meet new challenges, but a routine full of worry, ill-health and damaged relationships is draining and unlikely to leave you well equipped to meet opportunities coming your way. Even if you are a natural at dealing with life’s difficulties, it can pay to reassess your feelings from time to time so that when things do get tough, you don’t suddenly find yourself out of your depth and without the tools to cope.
Phillips, A. (1996). What, Me Not Worry? nytimes.com
Gholipour, B. (2014). What’s Causing Your Foggy Brain? livescience.com
Stress Management Society. (2015). How vulnerable are you to stress? stress.org.uk
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2015), Coping With Stress, cdc.gov