April is Stress Awareness Month, so for our latest WIN blog, Account Manager and founder of Keep Real, Kimberley shares some key signs to look out for.

By Kimberley Robinson

Stress is our natural response to any kind of demand or threat. It’s our body’s way of defending itself. Even the word stress increases our heart rate. In emergency situations, stress can save our lives. But sometimes, it can seep into our everyday lives, and we find it hard to know the signs.

We all manage external and internal stresses differently. What may profoundly affect you, can be trivial to someone else. Where a colleague or friend may thrive under the pressure of deadlines, others will shut down and feel overwhelmed. Know that how we manage stress is different from person to person. All of us have an individual story, and it is how we become mindful of the symptoms that allows us to improve how we cope.

Here are some signs of stress to watch out for:

  • Emotional symptoms: Feeling overwhelmed, general unhappiness, feeling irritable, moody or angry. Sometimes, emotionally we can feel the need to take a step back and be by ourselves. Isolating ourselves is a common emotional symptom, where we can find it hard to verbally express how we feel.
  • Behavioural symptoms: When we’re stressed, we tend to fall into habits with our behaviours. Eating more or less, procrastinating tasks or becoming distracted, nervous habits such as nail biting, feeling restless and clenching your jaw.
  • Physical symptoms: Your body has its way of letting you know you are stressed. It can come in many forms; such as headaches, tightness in the chest, nausea, dizziness, going to the toilet more often. If we are constantly stressed, our immune system can also decrease in its ability to fight off bacteria. Having more colds/flu than normal may be a sign of high stress levels.
  • Finding it hard to cope with everyday things: Some days are so much harder than others, but if you find that everyday tasks are becoming much harder to manage (like taking a shower, making food, travelling to work etc.) then it could be time to take a gentle step back to clear your head.

It’s important to know your limit on stress, as it varies from person to person. Your tolerance to stress can be influenced by your sense of control, your perspective on how you manage it, and the ability to deal with your emotions.

Just know that you are not alone. Stress can be managed well, if we allow ourselves to notice the signs. The first step is knowing, and having that relationship with yourself is the most important thing of all.

Keep Real is a social enterprise that supports better mental health in Yorkshire by running workshops and events, hosting talks and creating merch to spread the word. Find out more about Keep Real here.