What are the physical and emotional symptoms of stress?

Posted by Eve Bampton-Wilton on 28 March, 2024

Stress is the body's reaction to feeling threatened or under pressure. It may be surprising to hear, but a certain amount of stress is actually healthy. This is because stress is a normal reaction to the everyday pressures we have. However, sometimes stress can creep up on us gradually, to the point where it starts to interfere with parts of our lives. It can be hard to recognize some of the signs. Sometimes, the things we do to try and manage our stress can lead to a vicious cycle of symptoms, which, in turn, make us more stressed! It’s important to remember that if you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed, you do not have to go through this on your own - TALKWORKS can help you.


How to tell if you are feeling excessively stressed

So, what are the signs that you may be feeling excessively stressed? Stress can manifest itself in a variety of different ways, both in a physical and emotional format. Everyone will experience this differently, but common signs to look out for include:

  • Physical aches and pains; particularly in your head, neck, shoulders and back.
  • Feeling tired, experiencing difficulty concentrating and making decisions are also common signs of stress
  • Sleeping less and finding it hard to switch off
  • Digestive problems - including feeling sick, experiencing cramps and changes in bowel habits.
  • Getting behind with things that you are usually on top of – work, housework, even the things we enjoy like hobbies or socializing.
  • Using food, alcohol or drugs to manage how we feel - maybe ‘blowouts’ at the weekend or becoming dependent on a few glasses of alcohol to help us to relax.

There may also be emotional changes that we notice, including low mood, increased anxiety or worrying excessively. We may be more snappy and irritable with those that we are close to, or feel guilty, worthless or more emotional than usual.

What can we do to help cope with stress?

There are lots of techniques that can be used to try and reduce or eliminate the stress. It is vital to schedule in time for ourselves to relax, especially when things are full on. A little bit of relaxation is better than nothing! It’s important to work out what helps you to relax by taking some time out for yourself. One person may find taking a bath a good way to unwind, whereas someone else may prefer reading a book or watching their favourite show on TV. Whatever you choose, make sure it is something that doesn’t just give you short term relief, but also helps you in the long run. A few glasses of wine may be nice at the time, but can have less than enjoyable knock on effects like affecting sleep and making us feel unwell. When this then affects our day, it means that the cycle of stress goes on and actually increases rather than reduces.

Exercise is a great way to de-stress because it can improve mood, help you to sleep better and leave you feeling good. You might find that going to the gym or joining a class is how you like to keep fit, or it could simply be reaching out to a friend and heading out for a walk. Remember that with exercise you need to find something you actually enjoy, otherwise it will feel like a chore.

If your stress is work related, it’s important to talk to someone and get the support you need at work. This could be a trusted supervisor, your line manager or someone from HR. You can also contact the Devon Wellbeing Hub if you are a healthcare, social care worker or working for the police looking for help managing your wellbeing. Alternatively you can reach out to TALKWORKS for one-to-one therapy and for independent and impartial advice on work-related stress. We are also able to speak to your employer on your behalf if you would like us to.

Connecting with others and reaching out when you’re finding things hard is a healthy habit to adopt. It could be having a chat on the phone, sending a quick message or meeting up with someone you feel comfortable confiding in. Talking about what’s on your mind can help to ease some of the weight you are carrying and is a great way to reduce stress.

Sometimes, taking steps to make changes can feel pretty overwhelming. We may just not know where to start, or it may be your life just feels completely unbalanced and you aren’t used to prioritizing yourself. You may be experiencing lots of symptoms around stress, like poor sleep or anxiety which is adding to how you feel. It can be really hard to speak out when you need some help – or, the idea of getting help sounds like another thing to add to your diary, and therefore your stress! This is where TALKWORKS can help you.


What support can TALKWORKS offer?

Here at TALKWORKS, we have NHS therapists who are trained to support people with a range of difficulties. Our initial appointment is just 45 minutes, and can carried out either in person, via video call or on the telephone, and at a range of times to suit you. We can also support you in a number of flexible ways that are designed to be the least burdensome as possible. Our aim is to give you the tools and techniques needed to help get you back on track. You may also benefit from text-based therapy support (scheduled appointments available 6am - 11pm, 7 days a week) or online self-help through Silvercloud (available 24/7) if you would prefer to access support from the comfort of your own home.

We know that reaching out for help when you are under a great deal of stress can be hard, but it’s the first step to helping yourself to feel better again. If you would like to book in for an assessment with TALKWORKS, you can complete a self-referral form online or speak to a member of the team by calling 0300 555 3344 (our phone lines are open Monday to Friday from 9am-4:45pm). Remember that we are part of Devon Partnership NHS Trust, and all treatment and support is available free of charge.

Related Posts