Stress Awareness Month: Symptoms & Tips for Stress Management

Stress is a familiar word to most of us, and needs no introduction. It affects people of all ages, ethnicities, nationalities and economic status.

What is important to know about stress is that it is not necessarily always an awful thing. In the right situations, stress gave our ancestors the ability to fight dangerous animals, adapt to challenging climates and invent ingenious devices to survive. In the modern world, the right amount of stress helps us reach deadlines and come up with brilliant ideas.

Stress becomes a problem when it occurs in inappropriate situations or when it overstays its welcome. This can cause a variety of symptoms. The symptoms of stress may differ between individuals, but involve one or more of the following -

  • Increased withdrawal which usually manifests as social withdrawal/disinterest but not necessarily. It does not just have to be you wanting to do nothing, but could also be overworking.
  • Mood changes that include anger, irritability, frustration, feeling anxious and nervous. This can also lead to worrying excessively.
  • Disruptive habits such as drinking too much, eating badly, smoking, doing drugs.
  • Physical symptoms including but not limited to the following: headaches, dizziness, nausea, fatigue, poor sleeping patterns, digestive/skin issues. Chronic stress can lead to cardiovascular diseases, strokes, a weakened immune system and an increased risk of cancer.

It is also important to know that stress in of itself is not a psychiatric diagnosis. But, it can cause mental health disorders or be a symptom of mental health disorders. Hence why, it is absolutely essential to recognize and catch the signs of stress early on. As we’re probably aware, it’s not always possible to avoid a stressful situation. What we can definitely try to do is minimise our risk for being put in such situations, or having some healthy coping mechanisms ready to tackle the oncoming stress.

Here’s a few tried and tested (science backed) stress management tips:

  • Get more and better sleep by reducing screen time at night, try a small breathing exercise - inhale for 5, hold and then exhale for 8 (also effective at other parts of the day). If your thoughts run a mile a minute at night - write them out!
  • Take time out to do things you like, this can be listening to or making music, dancing, painting, running, taking a bath or baking. (Not an exhaustive list!)
  • Spend more time in nature preferably with animals and your loved ones.
  • Incorporate more movement , it does not have to be heavy weightlifting or martial arts. Go on a brisk walk or do some yoga.
  • Talk to friends or family or a professional.

Experts have named stress as the health epidemic of this century, but it is still far from being accepted as such and treated with the urgency that it requires. This has to change, and fast.

We can start by understanding what causes us stress personally and find ways that work best for us. Only then can we can start having an open conversation with our loved ones, colleagues and neighbours about their stressors. At a larger level, workplaces can take steps to combat stress at work and government health policies can start incorporating stress.

April is stress awareness month, so take this chance and start a conversation about stress!

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About the author

Ifrah Khanyaree, Medical Content Writer

Ifrah is a recent graduate in psychology and neuroscience with a penchant for extensively researching and writing content that is honest and accessible.

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