Stress - how to recognise it
stress; pressure; danger; cope; coping; relax; relaxation;
Stress is the body's response to anything which could be dangerous. The body goes into 'fight or flight' mode, which means that you get an adrenalin rush, your heart beats faster, more blood rushes to your muscles and you are all set to fight or run away from whatever is threatening you.
This is good if you are facing a really dangerous situation, or if you were a cave dweller in the olden days chasing the next meal – but most of us don't have to deal with situations like these. Usually we have to deal with frightening things using our mind.
But stress is still a normal part of our lives and our bodies still react to it in the same way.
What causes stress?
We're all different and we've all learnt to respond differently to situations that make us feel angry or worried or overloaded. This means that some people will become highly stressed about things that might not worry other people, like:
- being harassed
- being left out of a group
- a new school
- being late
- girl friends / boy friends
- a new baby in the family
- moving house
- going to the dentist
- a job interview
- taking on a new responsibility.
It's different for everyone, but some things get all people highly stressed - things like a family breakdown, a death of someone close, someone going to gaol, too many responsibilities, or being a victim of violent crime. Crises, like being around when there is a bushfire, cyclone or earthquake, or living through a drought (especially for country people) are very stressful for everyone.
Our coping skills are something we've learnt, usually from our parents. Because they are learnt, this means that we can all learn and take on new coping skills to increase our coping capacity and deal with stress better.
What can stress do to you if it goes on too long?
Our bodies send us messages that tell us that we're over-stressed. If we try to pretend to ourselves that stress isn't having an effect on us, we get into the stage where our bodies send us strong messages to stop. If we don't have some ways to deal with stress, we can become quite ill.
The message could be:
- physical exhaustion
- physical illness
- loss of self-confidence
Signs of stress
It's important to acknowledge the signs of stress for yourself, so that you can work out how to protect yourself and deal with what is causing the stress.
Some of the physical signs or feelings in your body might be:
- feeling sick
- sore muscles
- diarrhoea or constipation
- problems with sleeping
- losing interest in sex
- being unable to concentrate
- heart beating faster
- skin rashes
- wanting to binge on comfort foods.
Some of the feeling signs could be:
- aggression and anger
"If your body is sending you messages like this, then you need to take notice and do something about it. Don't wait until your body starts to get really sick.
Think about what is causing you stress and work out how to deal with it. Sometimes just writing down all the stuff that’s worrying you can begin to make everything seem better. Once you know what it is, you can work out what to do about it. Keeping fit and getting enough sleep helps your body to work better and your mind to think more clearly.
Our topic on 'Stress - learning to relax' may give you some ideas, so that stress doesn't take over your life."
The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor, or ring the Youth Healthline on 1300 13 17 19 (local call cost from anywhere in South Australia).