Manifestations of long term or poorly managed stress can vary. Distress induces headaches, leads to disturbed sleep, feelings of anxiety or tension, irrational and inappropriate bursts of anger and aggression, concentration problems, depression, lack of interest in food, increased or decreased appetite. In severe situations one can experience overwhelming stress to the point of burn-out with extreme fatigue and loss of interest in normal activities.
High levels of chronic distress have a negative impact on the immune system and other systems of the body. Distressed individuals can experience frequent colds or other infections and illnesses. Most of our common modern day illnesses can be linked to ill managed and overwhelming levels of stress.
Long term distress can affect your health, your job performance, your enjoyment of life. If stress is overwhelming to you, a mental health professional can help you.
The signs of a stress crisis:
- You feel down or depressed most of the time
- You are violent and out of control
- You're getting too strict with your kids
- You feel as though family and friends are letting you down and disappointing you
- You've been drinking more than usual
- You're out of control when you drink
- You feel helpless and unable to cope
- You often tell lies about what you're doing
Do you regularly or often experience any of the following symptoms (answer yes or no) of anxiety:
- Anxious thoughts or feelings
- Poor concentration, forgetfulness, mind going blank.
- Dwelling on problems, unable to shut off worrying thoughts.
- Fears or sense of impending doom.
- Feeling irritable, restless, on edge, keyed up.
- Easily startled or frightened.
- Feeling anxious, fearful, hollow feeling over solar plexus, tense most of the time.
- Sudden, unexpected panic spells or attacks.
- Fear of losing control or going crazy.
- Racing thoughts.
- Tension and soreness in muscles, especially back and neck muscle groups.
- Difficulty falling or staying asleep.
- Trembling, feeling shaky.
- Restless, difficult to sit still.
- Easily exhausted.
- Heart palpitations, pounding or racing heart.
- Tightness or pressure in chest.
- Diarrhoea, constipation, nausea, constant feeling of indigestion and bloatedness.
- Shortness of breath, feelings of being smothered.
- Frequent urination or urge to urinate.
- Feeling dizzy or light headed.
- Hot flushes or chills.
How would I know whether I'm at risk for burn-out? You get burnt out when the continuous stress of dealing with a difficult job or situation becomes too much for you. The most likely candidates for burn-out are hard driven, highly committed people who take on too many tasks or try to do too many things. They suddenly lose interest and motivation for what they're doing.
You're at risk for burn-out if the following are true for you:
- You've been trying to achieve too much
- You are unable to turn down additional work, commitments or responsibilities
- You've been under intense stress and pressure for a long time
- You have high standards
- You don't like to delegate
- You've been giving others emotional support for a long time
- You feel guilty when you spend time and money on yourself
What are the symptoms of burn-out? Burn-out doesn't happen overnight. It is a process that slowly builds up over a long period of time
- Feeling of lack of control over commitments
- Loss of purpose
- Loss of motivation
- Detachment from relationships
- Feeling tired and lethargic
- Feeling that you're accomplishing less
- Increased tendency to think negatively
How do I avoid burn-out?
- Know your inner self to become aware when your thoughts, emotions and behaviour are threatening to run out of control
- Listen to your body: skin eruptions; short, fast, shallow breathing; back aches; indigestion; racing palpable heart beat; disturbed sleep; physical exhaustion and cravings are some of your body's distress signals, so stop and listen!
- Make sure that you're still enjoying what you're doing
- Repeat to yourself often: I have a right to fun, pleasure and relaxation
- Get plenty of restful sleep, relaxation and recreation
- Learn and practice stress management skills
- Learn to say 'no'
- Constantly re-evaluate your goals and decide what's important and essential to your enjoyment and appreciation of life
- Reduce your commitments
- Eat a healthy diet
- Use the correct food supplements to support you body and your mind
- Learn to delegate
- If others drain your energy, step back and avoid them for a while
- Exercise moderately, but regularly and choose something you enjoy