While a certain level of stress is necessary to avoid boredom, high levels of stress over a sustained period can damage your health. The sections below show common symptoms of stress, and the negative effects that excessive stress can cause. While the symptoms in isolation may or may not show stress, where several occur it is likely that stress is having an effect. Note that as the stress you are under increases, your ability to recognise it will often decrease.
SHORT TERM PHYSICAL SYMPTOMS
These mainly occur as your body adapts to perceived physical threat, and are caused by release of adrenaline. Although you may perceive these as unpleasant and negative, they are signs that your body is ready for the explosive action that assists survival or high performance: Faster heart beat, Increased sweating, Cool skin, Cold hands and feet, Feelings of nausea, or 'Butterflies in stomach', Rapid Breathing, Tense Muscles, Dry Mouth, A desire to urinate, Diarrhea
These are the symptoms of survival stress.
SHORT TERM PERFORMANCE EFFECTS.
While adrenaline helps you survive in a 'fight-or-flight' situation, it does have negative effects in situations where this is not the case:
1: It interferes with clear judgement and makes it difficult to take the time to make good decisions. It can seriously reduce your enjoyment of your work.
2: Where you need good physical skills it gets in the way of fine motor control.
3: It causes difficult situations to be seen as a threat, not a challenge.
It damages the positive frame of mind you need for high quality work by:
4: promoting negative thinking, damaging self-confidence, narrowing attention, disrupting focus and concentration and making it difficult to cope with distractions.
5: It consumes mental energy in distraction, anxiety, frustration and temper. This is energy that should be devoted to the work in hand.
LONG TERM PHYSICAL SYMPTOMS
These occur where your body has been exposed to adrenaline over a long period. One of the ways adrenaline prepares you for action is by diverting resources to the muscles from the areas of the body which carry out body maintenance.
This means that if you are exposed to adrenaline for a sustained period, then your health may start to deteriorate. This may show up in the following ways:
1: change in appetite
2: frequent colds
3: illnesses such as: asthma, back pain, digestive problems, headaches, skin eruptions, sexual disorders, aches and pains, feelings of intense and long-term tiredness.
INTERNAL SYMPTOMS OF LONG TERM STRESS
When you are under stress or have been tired for a long period of time you may find that you are less able to think clearly and rationally about problems. This can lead to the following internal emotional 'upsets':
BEHAVIOURAL SYMPTOMS OF LONG TERM STRESS
When you or other people are under pressure, this can show as:
1: Talking too fast or too loud
3: Fiddling and twitching, nail biting, grinding teeth, drumming fingers, pacing, etc.
4: Bad moods:
- Being irritable
- Being critical
- Overreaction and reacting emotionally
- Reduced personal effectiveness:
- Being unreasonably negative
- Making less realistic judgements
- Being unable to concentrate and having difficulty making decisions
- Being more forgetful
- Making more mistakes
- Being more accident prone
- Changing work habits
- Increased absenteeism
- Neglect of personal appearance
These symptoms of stress should not be taken in isolation – other factors could cause them. However if you find yourself exhibiting or recognising a number of them, then it would be worth investigating stress management techniques.