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7 signs of stress and how to combat them to improve your wellbeing

October 18, 2021

National Stress Awareness Day is on 3 November. Stress is something everyone experiences at different points in their lifetime, but it can harm your wellbeing and health. Recognising the signs of stress means you can take steps to reduce the impact it has on your life.

According to a study from HR software provider CIPHR, Brits feel stressed eight days a month on average. That adds up to around three months a year. Almost 8 in 10 people said they felt stressed at least once a month. So, if you feel stressed, you’re not alone.

The research found there are many reasons for stress. Financial anxiety and a lack of sleep were the most common causes. Things like health, work in general, and cleaning were also found to have an impact. Recognising the signs of stress is important for managing the effect it has, so here are seven of the most common symptoms.

1. You feel tired

Even when you plan to get eight hours of sleep, stress can still leave you feeling exhausted in the morning. This may be because you’ve had a restless night, or had trouble going to sleep because your mind is focused on your concerns. It can be a vicious circle too, as a lack of sleep can exacerbate other signs of stress and add to your worries.

2. You experience regular headaches

The occasional headache is common, but if you’re experiencing them frequently, it could be a sign of stress. Stress headaches will often feel like pressure on either side of your head and may be accompanied by tense shoulders and neck. If headaches are common, it’s also advisable to seek medical attention, which can ease concerns if you’re worried about your health.

3. You feel more emotional

Stress can heighten emotions and may mean you react differently in some situations than you normally would. You may, for example, feel more tearful or irritable during the day. This is one of the signs that can worsen if you’re experiencing a lack of sleep too.

4. Your diet has changed

Hormones released when you’re stressed can affect your relationship with food. For some, stress can mean they lose their appetite in the short term. For others, it can lead to stress eating, which could mean eating more or choosing unhealthier foods. A poor diet can contribute to stress, tiredness, and your capacity to carry out day-to-day activities.

5. You feel overwhelmed

Feeling overwhelmed and like you’re not in control of things is common when you’re stressed. It can mean if you’re facing a problem, you’re not able to come up with a solution to resolve it. When you have a lot on your plate, being overwhelmed can mean you feel less able to tackle it, potentially causing even more stress.

6. You’ve lost motivation

Whether you’re putting off work tasks or avoiding doing the things you used to enjoy, stress can mean you lose motivation. While it can seem easier to avoid these things, it can mean you miss out on activities that would lift your mood.

7. You get ill easier

As well as an emotional impact, stress can have a physical one too. Stress can impact your immune system and mean you become ill more frequently. It can also mean it takes longer for you to recover and feel like yourself again.

5 ways you can combat stress and boost your wellbeing

If you’ve been feeling stressed, it can seem like there’s little you can do. But some relatively small steps can have a real impact on your wellbeing and help reduce the levels of stress you’re experiencing. Here are five ways to do this:

  1. Exercise: Stress can mean you feel lethargic but pushing yourself to exercise can release feel-good hormones that can boost your mood. Where possible exercise outdoors to get the added benefits of fresh air and nature.
  2. Set small goals: Setting out a plan can help you take back control and work towards your goals. Setting small targets can help keep you on track and mean you feel like you’ve accomplished something each day. Remember to celebrate the positive steps you’re taking.
  3. Connect with people: Stress can lead to people feeling isolated and you may avoid spending time with others, whether that’s your family, friends, or colleagues. Make a conscious effort to make plans to socialise.
  4. Create some me-time: Think about what you enjoy doing and schedule some time to focus on this. It could be reading a book, going for a walk, or something entirely different, but don’t feel bad about spending time on the things that are important to you.
  5. Talk about your worries: Don’t be afraid to seek help or talk about what is causing you stress. It can help you see things from another perspective and create a plan to reduce stress. In some cases, chatting with loved ones can help, in others working with a professional to talk through your worries can be beneficial.

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