Recognising stress in yourself

To mark the launch of the Mind & Body Health and Wellbeing toolkit for staff – we've pulled together a checklist on recognising and managing stress.

What is stress?

Stress is often described as a feeling of being overloaded, tight, tense and worried.

National stress awareness dayWe all experience stress at times. It can sometimes help to motivate us to get a task finished or perform well. But stress can also be harmful if we experience chronic stress and it can interfere with our ability to get on with our normal life.

What are the types of stress?

Sometimes stress can be brief and specific to the demands and pressures of a particular situation, such as a deadline, a performance, or facing up to a difficult challenge or traumatic event. This type of stress often gets called acute stress.

Some people seem to experience acute stress over and over. This is sometimes referred to as episodic acute stress. These kind of repetitive stress episodes may be due to a series of very real stressful challenges, for example, losing a job then developing health problems.

The third type of stress is called chronic stress. This involves ongoing demands, pressures and worries that seem to go on forever, with little hope of letting up. Chronic stress can be harmful to people’s health and happiness. Even though people can sometimes get used to chronic stress, and may feel they do not notice it so much, it often continues to wear people down and can have a negative effect on relationships, wellbeing and health.

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How can I tell if I’m stressed or if someone else is stressed?

Symptoms of stress can include:

  • Headaches, other aches and pains
  • Sleep disturbance, insomnia
  • Upset stomach, indigestion, diarrhoea
  • Anxiety
  • Anger, irritability
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling overwhelmed and out of control
  • Feeling moody, tearful
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Low self-esteem, lack of confidence
  • High blood pressure.

How can I learn how to manage everyday stress?

Learning to handle stress in healthy ways is very important. These include recognising and changing the behaviours that contribute to stress, as well as techniques for reducing stress once it has occurred. Here are some top tips.

Some top tips include:

  1. Identify triggers - there are often known triggers which raise our stress levels and make it more difficult for us to manage. If you know what the likely triggers are, you can aim to anticipate them and practice calming yourself down beforehand or find ways of removing the trigger
  2. Identify warning signs - spotting early warning signs in your body that tell you when you are getting stressed
  3. Establish routines - having predictable rhythms and routines in your day, or over a week, can be very calming and reassuring, and can help you to manage your stress. This could include regular times for exercise and relaxation, meal times, and bedtimes
  4. Connect with others – speak to friends and family about how you feel and don’t ‘bottle up’ your feelings
  5. Look after your health – be sure to get regular food, eat a balanced diet, and take time to do the activities you find calming or uplifting
  6. Practice relaxation - this will help your body and nervous system to settle and readjust
  7. Notice your self-talk - when we are stressed we sometimes say things in our head, over and over, that just add to our stress. This unhelpful self-talk might include things like: ‘I can’t cope’, or ‘I’m too busy’. Notice when you are using unhelpful self-talk, and instead try saying soothing, calming things to yourself to reduce your levels of stress. Keeping things in perspective is important.

When should I seek help?

If high levels of stress continue for a long period of time, or are interfering with you enjoying a healthy life, it is advisable to seek professional help. This could be from your GP, occupational health team, or psychologist – there are also details of existing partner initiatives within the toolkit itself

Seeking help can be one way to manage your stress effectively.

Want more advice like this?

This piece was adapted from the Mind & Body health and wellbeing toolkit for staff, which also contains the sources for all these ideas.

The toolkit offers all staff working across health and care services a collection of resources in one place that they can use to support the mind and body health and wellbeing of their team. It includes wellbeing tips and ideas for teams, bitesize sessions on a variety of topics that can be independently led by teams, as well as information and links to existing resources for all King’s Health Partners staff.

King’s Health Partners Mind & Body is committed to joining up mental and physical healthcare, training and research to improve health outcomes.