When going through a difficult break-up and financial issues a few years ago I rapidly lost 9 kilos in the space of 3 months. I had no appetite and every time I tried to eat it made me sick. Fearing I had a parasite or thyroid problem I went to the doctors where my diagnosis was: Severe Stress!
I’ve been surprised to learn over the years how much stress can affect our bodies and mental states in extreme ways. In fact it’s considered a leading cause behind many major health problems; cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, proneness to infection and chronic fatigue, obesity, depression, anxiety and addiction.
And yet it often feels unavoidable! When dealing with the day to day struggles of work, study, relationships and financial issues worry and stress feel like a constant companion. It’s important to recognise the difference between mild and occasional stress brought on by an impending deadline, an unexpected occurrence or a particularly tiresome day and more severe or ongoing cases. And how can we reduce it’s impact on our lives and health?
Stress is not only a state of mind it physically impacts the function of our hearts, adrenaline, hormones, muscle tension and digestive system. It can cause significant disruption to our health and even have fatal consequences. So it’s important to take the signs your body is telling you seriously. If there is noticeable changes in your eating habits and weight, digestive functions, sleeping habits, feelings of constant fatigue, or an increased use of substances such as alcohol, medications or drugs consider talking to your doctor about your health and stress levels.
The mental impacts of stress can be more noticeable as it snowballs into acute stress, anxiety and depression. Seeking help from family, friends or a professional can be helpful to understanding and relieving the impacts of stress. But often a bit of self-reflection can be the most useful tool when everything seems to be working against you. Stress and unhappiness is frequently a consequence of an extreme imbalance in your lifestyle and an indicator that there are changes that need to be made such as:
Overworking or staying in the wrong job can have a huge impact on your stress levels. Force yourself to set boundaries with your working hours and availability to contact and learn to say NO. You may want to reconsider if your current job is really what you want to pursue or offers you the work-life balance you desire.
Many people have difficulty juggling money, whether it’s daily expenses or larger ones such as mortgages and bills, seeking financial advice could help you organise and structure your spending more efficiently. Start keeping track of your daily spending and setting weekly or monthly budgets, you might be surprised how much you could be saving by not eating out so often or buying that daily coffee.
Learning to say NO is important in relationships too. It’s good to help friends, family and partners out when you can but learn not to over extend yourself or become too involved in other people’s issues. Stress in a romantic relationship could be an indicator that things are not working out and it may be time to move on.
Your health and happiness is important! As much as we worry about our loved ones and our careers if you don’t take care of yourself fatigue, illness and chronic health problems are likely to occur.
If stress is taking over your life it’s time to reconsider your lifestyle and priorities. Never forget life is not just about working and paying bills until we die! Cut back on the factors that are causing stress in your life and make room for things you enjoy and make you feel good like socialising, relaxing, eating well and exercise.