Decode those hard to see messages

April marks stress awareness month. A time to shine a light on what stress is and how it affects peoples lives.

The word stress is easily used these days, how many people do you hear say "I'm so stressed" but don't do anything about it. It's almost as if it's accepted in some situations and purely by stating the words that'll magically make a difference whereas in reality it doesn't. Using this word so freely can almost minimise the seriousness of it's effects on people and stress is nothing to be flippant about.

It may seem like stress is just part of the fast paced world we live in now and there seems to be an increased amount of demands that we each manage everyday taking from us bit by bit.

Stress can affect your physical health, mental health, emotional and spiritual health as well as other areas such as memory, confidence, assertiveness and sleep. Knowing how to recognise the signs of stress and how to manage this is essential in maintaining your wellbeing in all areas.

Stress can manifest in many ways and sometimes it's the subtle changes within someone that can be the first signs but often these are ignored until more significant impact is seen or felt. Chronic ongoing stress has been linked to serious health conditions such as heart disease, obesity and depression.

Stress can come from so many places - within work, deadlines, when parenting, in relationships, with family, making decisions, noise, sensory demands or internal issues such as our own perceptions of a situation and your thoughts surrounding this event. While there will always be things in life that can cause stress it's important to know how to recognise when you are feeling the effects of stress and how to manage it to reduce the impact on you.

Stress is more than simply feeling overwhelmed. The World Health Organisation describe stress as -

"Stress can be defined as a state of worry or mental tension caused by a difficult situation. Stress is a natural human response that prompts us to address challenges and threats in our lives. Everyone experiences stress to some degree. The way we respond to stress, however, makes a big difference to our overall well-being".

In order to manage stress you must know what this looks like for you.

Why not spend some time reflecting on times when you've been stressed and all the ways that indicated that you were struggling. What were the signs for you? Being aware will help you to recognise them earlier next time it should occur.

Some hidden signs of stress which some people may dismiss away can be

(1) Changes in eating habits

(2) Difficulty concentrating

(3) Increased irritability

(4) Changes in sleep pattern

(5) Physical aches and pains

There are many more and each person is individual so it's important that you get to know yourself really well and know how stress affect you.

Maybe you have more subtle signs such as not doing things you normally would such as colouring your hair, plucking your eyebrows, less attention to detail in daily activities or making mistakes which are out of the ordinary for you. Whatever it is don't ignore these subtle signs.

Take steps to address the issues causing it if you can and do reach out for help. Talk to a friend, family member or reach out for therapy from a counsellor. It's not weak to ask for help, it's a sign of strength.

Increase your self care and prioritise your needs.

We will all experience stress at some point in our lives so the better you get at managing this the less it will affect you in the long run.