How Do You Know When You Are Stressed?

You will be able to identify when you are physically not well enough for work, but how about when you mentally need a break?

Life is hectic – that is a given, but how do you know when you are about to implode? You have so many balls to juggle that to drop one could have serious consequences. Before you reach crisis point, you need to be self-aware so that you can spot when it’s time to book some annual leave and recuperate. Easier said than done.

The average hours in a working week for the UK is 37.1 hours – but this doesn’t take into consideration commuting time or the jobs you must do out of work i.e. raising a family or running a house. Women have a tendency to be more stressed than men, but the statistics show that more men commit suicide than women – around 3 times higher in the UK. Stress is a very real problem and it is critical that you address your mental health needs.

5 Signs That You are Stressed

Here are 5 typical changes to your behaviour that may indicate that you are stressed. If you recognise that these signs apply to you, it is important that you spend time to identify how you can adjust your lifestyle so that causes and your reactions are less harmful to your wellbeing.

1.     Every little issue escalates

Ordinarily, you may deal with life’s challenges without too much bother, but when you are stressed even comparatively minor issues can feel like a major hurdle. Try to keep situations that arise in perspective – not everything that you encounter needs to be dealt with a severe response or reaction.

How do you know when you are escalating situations beyond an appropriate level? Recognise how you respond to people – you may lose patience more easily and find that you criticise others more than usual.

This book 'Don't Sweat the Small Stuff by Richard Carlson is a great book for giving you a fresh perspective of life - and how to be happier. I don't usually like books and guides in the self-help genre, but this is different: you can dip in and out of it and it gives real hints and tips about how to challenge your perspective in subtle, realistic and achievable ways. There's no huge demand on you, but it gives you some tools to reduce stress and anxiety.

2.     People keep asking if you are ok

Not just standard conversational asking if you are ok, but more than usual. Often when you are stressed and under the weather, you will inadvertently send signals and your inner distress will be obvious to those around you, even if you haven’t recognised the signs yourself. You may be less tolerant of colleagues or family members and a bit snappy – perhaps people respond to you by giving you more space.

Infographic: 10 Ways to Cope With Stress

3.       You make mistakes

Everybody makes some mistakes at some point, but if you recognise that you are making mistakes more often than is acceptable either at work or at home, you need to take some time out to relax. Stress is a well-documented reason for errors being made. Being mentally and physically exhausted can have serious consequences - you make rash and often inappropriate decisions that ordinarily you wouldn't make.

4.     You display self-sabotaging behaviour

Self-sabotaging behaviour is when you do things that interfere or damage your regular habits and lifestyle. Typically, this means procrastinating more than usual, self-medicating with alcohol or cigarettes, comfort eating or not eating enough. These behaviours give short-term relief to stress but end up contributing to the negative thought patterns and feelings of stress. It’s a cycle of limiting behaviour that is a form of protection from disappointment and high expectation. When you notice that you are displaying self-sabotaging behaviour, don’t sit back and accept it as a flaw in your personality – be proactive to change your responses to stressful situations.

5.     Your body aches

From migraines to an upset stomach, your body gives you signals as to when you need to take time out, but do you listen to it? Pain related health issues are exacerbated, if not caused by, stress.

If you are regularly experiencing physical symptoms, you need to get them checked out by a doctor but also take steps to review your lifestyle so that you maintain good physical and mental health. When you are in a stressful situation, your body releases chemicals that can trigger inflammation and diminish our ability to manage pain. Listen to your body.

When you recognise that you are feeling stressed, seek help. It is essential that you seek the support that you need - it doesn't have to be a permanent way of living. If your friends and family can support you that is great, but there are many agencies and charities that can help you too. Don't be tempted to minimise your feelings or the challenges you are facing - everybody deals with challenges in different ways, and what may be manageable to others may be a burden to you - there's no shame in seeking help. It's a shame if you don't - we only have one life after all.

What are your stress busting techniques? A holiday? Exercise?. What tips can you share to help people address the stress in their lives?