Stress Awareness Month

In everyday speak stress might be described as ‘a constant everyday worry’.

A scientist would describe stress as ‘a force that acts in a way that often changes the shape of an object’.

A medical professional might describe stress as ‘a physical, mental or emotional factor that could lead to ill health’.

Stress can be divided into both external and internal stresses. External stresses may be due to environmental, psychological or social situations whereas internal stresses could be caused by illness or a medical procedure.

For me, stress has been in different measures at different times of my life. Sometimes it has been a positive thing. Having a bit of stress to propel you to achieve is not always negative.

Stress has presented in many different ways from struggling to meet a deadline for assignments in my medical studies, struggling to care for a loved one or trying to find someone who would take me to the leavers’ ball!

Stress can be caused by so many different factors like:

  • financial concerns
  • relationship differences
  • work pressures
  • parenting
  • ill-health

Stress can cause a number of ailments including:

  • suppression of the immune system
  • upset the digestive system
  • alter the reproductive system
  • increase the risk of heart attack and stroke

We all experience stress in some form. Even the most chilled, laid-back person will go through periods of stress. We are all juggling many responsibilities and pressures. When you are juggling the balls of stress, sometimes your arms might ache but it is only when you drop a ball that you realise how much stress is causing you physical, behavioural and mood issues.

Sometimes stress can creep up on us and all of a sudden become a huge burden to bear. Knowing the signs of stress in ourselves and others is beneficial to be able to intervene early and take steps to manage stress levels.

The Most Stressful Year?

The past year of the pandemic has heightened stress in many ways but it has also reduced it too. The worry of COVID for many people, not just health professionals has been intense. It was hard to not take note of the tragic death tolls broadcast on our screens each day. The news was filled with stories of utter desperation and fear. Many people lost loved ones and did not get their chance to say goodbye. Work load increased for many sectors and parents had the pressure of doing their jobs from their homes while playing school teacher.

Yet some stresses and pressure went in the pandemic. The crushing crawl on the motorway to work in the morning traffic was gone, some of us got a lie in or didn’t have the stress of the school run. Working from home brought benefits and flexibility for some people and our pets were a lot happier having us home! For me, it was really cool not to worry about clothes. I know that sounds a bit strange but as a medical professional, I could get changed many times in a day from shirt and tie to scrubs to shirt and tie to scrubs to shirt and tie and gym kit.

Sometimes one of life’s biggest stresses is getting ready for a night out! From deciding what to wear to where to go and then also feeling a sense of people-pleasing and accepting social or networking invites that you don’t actually deep down want to go to. We got a legitimate excuse to say no to things that we’d ordinarily feel obliged to say yes to.

However stress has presented for you reading this, you are not alone. Some signs of stress you might not even realise could be affecting you right now.

As it is Stress Awareness Month this April, I thought I’d put some thoughts to video on the signs of stress and steps you could take to manage your stress or seek advice from a medical professional.

View the video here:

Click above to play the video

Learning point – we need to learn to recognise our own limitations as stress is often caused by the need for deadlines or putting pressure on ourselves. Understanding our own signs of stress and in others who we love is important. Like me, you’ve probably experienced it before. Our stress levels have been sky high but it’s only after someone has pointed it out to us or we’ve come through it at the other side do we realise what a hold stress had over us. Developing that self awareness of our own physical, behavioural and mood signs of stress will help us diagnose stress getting too much and put us in a positive and proactive position to take action early.

This doctor is officially prescribing a chill pill!

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