Stress and signs of stress

Stress and anxiety levels in this country have never been higher. Mental health experts attribute this to the growing uncertainties that have become a feature of everyday South African life. Increasing crime, retrenchment fears, ever-rising cost-of-living, crippling interest rates, poor investment returns, low / no job prospects – all have taken their toll and no-one is immune. The good news is that stress, mild depression and anxiety are treatable.


There are numerous signs and symptoms of stress that many of us are unaware of. Not everybody develops ex

actly the same symptoms and research has indicated that, although there are common symptoms of stress, individuals vary in the symptoms they present. Some of us may have mainly physical symptoms such as muscle pain / tension, others may present with symptoms such as crying or anger. Learning the signs and symptoms of stress can help us become more aware of the problems stress can cause in our lives.

Some of the signs of too much stress are:
•  Headache
•  Muscle tension or pain
•  Anxiety
•  Restlessness
•  Lack of motivation or focus
•  Irritability or anger
•  Drug or alcohol abuse
•  Fatigue
•  Sadness or depression
•  Sleep problems
•  Change in sex drive
•  Over- or under-eating

There are many symptoms of anxiety, but because each person has a unique chemical make up, the type, number, intensity and frequency of anxiety symptoms will vary from person to person. For example, one person may have just one mild anxiety symptom, whereas another may have all anxiety symptoms and to a severe degree. All combinations are common.

Some of the signs of anxiety are:
•  Irrational fears
•  Brain fog
•  Dizziness
•  Hair loss
•  Frequently feeling overwhelmed
•  Mood swings
•  Frequently feeling on edge
•  Feel like crying for no apparent reason
•  Feel under pressure all the time

Signs and symptoms of mild depression:
•  Lack of interest
•  Irritability
•  Exaggerated guilt and self-criticism
•  A change in sleep patterns
•  Lack of energy
•  Feelings of hopelessness
•  Lack of appetite or increased appetite
•  Inability to concentrate

It is important to note, however, that depression is experienced differently by different people. Some people may have only a few of these symptoms but still be very depressed. In some people, depression is characterised not so much by a sad mood, as by increased irritability, unexplained pain or other symptoms.

Stress puts the body into emergency mode, known as the Flight or Fight Syndrome, in which the body’s energy is channelled away from maintenance and repair towards reacting physically to a stressful event. We very seldom fight or take flight – instead we just bottle it up inside. The unresolved stress then eventually manifests in the form of illness or other physical ailment. In an effort to reduce the feelings of stress, people tend to either self-medicate with alcohol or cannabis or resort to tranquillisers, instead of choosing healthier options of stress management.

Most of us experience quite intense moods in response to some of the events that occur in our lives. Some people, however, experience such dramatic ups and downs that they find it difficult to enjoy a good quality of life. These dramatic swings in mood may be extreme responses to external events or they may have their origin in internal changes in the body’s chemistry. The two most common types of mood swings are mood changes (such as irritability) and anger attacks. These changes can be devastating, both for the individual and for the people closest to them. Mood changes can be a prompted by any number of situations and refer to true changes in the person’s emotional state. Anger attacks are a sudden expression of overwhelming feelings  and are typically a strong response to something that has just happened.

Have you ever noticed that you forget things when you are stressed? Stress increases levels of the hormone cortisol. Higher and more prolonged levels of cortisol in the bloodstream (like those associated with chronic stress) have been shown to have negative effects such as impaired memory function and lower levels of concentration. A good example of this is in Alzheimer’s patients: the higher the cortisol, the worse their memory.

Having enough quality sleep is vital to emotional and physical well-being. The consequences of sleeplessness may vary from person to person and include some or all of the following, in varying intensities:
•  Impaired concentration
•  Difficulty in memorizing minor daily tasks
•  Irritability
•  Mood swings
•  Anxiety
•  Depression
•  Accident proneness
•  Fatigue
•  Inability to handle stressful situations effectively

Herbex Nerve Tonic will assist with stress control.

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