Living with fatigue Stress
Stress is a normal and unavoidable part of life. Stress occurs when there is an imbalance between the demands made and the ability to meet those demands, such as deadlines at work, difficulties within the family or when people are forced to adapt to new life circumstances. The greater the amount of change required, the greater the potential for stress.
Stress causes changes in blood pressure, heart rate and metabolism. In the short-term, these responses can improve physical and mental performance to cope with immediate crises - the 'fight or flight' response. However, left unchecked, excessive stress can have negative effects on physical and emotional health, including a direct effect on levels of fatigue.
Everybody reacts differently to stress, but there are common symptoms
- Physical - increased levels of sweating, muscle tightness, regular headaches, constipation or diarrhoea.
- Emotional - irritability, reduced concentration, feeling overwhelmed, problems making decisions, decreased confidence, low mood.
- Behavioural - difficulty sleeping, changes in appetite, loss of libido, increased drinking or smoking and reduced willingness to socialise.
Nobody can say what will be stressful for another person. Every situation or life event has the potential to be stressful and the ways in which people deal with stress are very individual.
There are three stages in stress management.
- Recognising the effect stress is having on health.
- Identifying what is causing stress.
- Taking action to remove or reduce the cause of stress.
It is not possible to remove all of the sources of stress, but it may be possible to control stress by changing the situation in order to limit the stressful elements.
- Recognise your own signs of stress, take charge of own emotions, thoughts and actions.
- Keep things in perspective. Focussing on only the bad things that might happen will prevent you from enjoying the good things that are happening just now.
I try not to worry too much about the things that I cannot change. Not always possible, I know! There are usually ways around problems and I'm lucky, I have a supportive husband and really good friendsViv
- Keep a positive attitude.
A glass of red wine! Screaming at the phone - very cathartic. Say "NO" occasionally! Give yourself permission to enjoy yourself - and stop feeling guiltyKaren
- Be kind to yourself.
- Communicate with others and seek support - discussing sources of worry with others rather than keeping them to yourself can help. Even if they can't directly change the source of stress, another person's point of view can put things in a different light.
Making my feelings known to others helps to alleviate stress and low moodRalph
- Plan ahead - prioritising activities can create more time for essential tasks and also identify potential areas of stress in advance (see the Planning section).
- Stay active and take time out for enjoyable activities - taking a step back from stressful events can change the perspective on problems and relieve the build up of stress to some degree. Physical activity is one of the most effective stress remedies, improving mood and self esteem. It can also act as a safe way to let off steam, or work off anger or frustration which doesn't involve taking things out on other people - a route more likely to increase stress!
- Use relaxation techniques (see following section).