Managing Early Signs of Stress


One of the most frequent questions I ask when I’m working with someone on stress management is:

What do they first notice about themselves when they’re beginning to struggle?

Often people will talk of a range of changes behaviourally, physically, cognitively and emotionally but they’ve tried to struggle on without responding to these changes. Understandably work demands, worries about colleagues or management and a belief that “its just a phase” will encourage an individual to carry on without responding to these changes. However responding early to these smaller scale signs could prevent escalation into more serious emotional problems.

Common early warning signs of stress include:

  • Headaches
  • Disrupted sleep
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feeing irritable
  • Digestive problems
  • Chest pains
  • Tiredness
  • Withdrawal from activities

Stress is a natural physical reaction to a series of demands or perceived threats. A small amount of stress can be positive and can provide motivation to overcome obstacles. However too much stress can have a negative impact and trigger the stress response, which includes a surge of adrenaline and cortisol causing physical changes in the body as it prepares to deal with a threatening situation. Repeated or prolonged stimulation of the stress response can cause serious physical and emotional difficulties, such as heart disease or depression. Noticing and acting upon your own early warning signs of stress can prevent escalation into more serious conditions.

Steps to managing early warning signs of stress:

  • Think about your own early warning signs. What changes do you notice when you’re under pressure? If its difficult to notice yourself, ask friends or family what changes they notice in you during times of stress.
  • Take time out. If your early warning signs are escalating try to take breaks or spend time doing something that you find relaxing or enjoyable. Prioritising these types of activities will help to reduce the symptoms of stress
  • Talk to someone. Try talking to a trusted friend or family member about how you’re feeling. Also remember to seek support from professionals, such as your GP, Occupational Health department or Psychological Therapist.

For further information about stress management contact Penny Hayler, Head of Psychological Therapies at Central Occupational Health here


Blog compiled by Penny Hayler, Head of Psychological Therapies at Central Occupational Health


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