The human body responds to events that provoke stress (stressors) by activating the nervous system and specific hormones. The hypothalamus signals the adrenal glands to produce more of the hormones, adrenaline and cortisol, and release them into the bloodstream. These hormones speed up heart rate, breathing rate, blood pressure and metabolism. The physical changes prepare you to react quickly and effectively to handle the pressure of the moment.
This natural reaction is known as the ‘stress response’. Working properly, the body’s stress response improves your ability to perform well under pressure.
Some common symptoms of stress are:
- can’t switch off – feeling alert and anxious even when you want to rest
- can’t cope – even small things get you down and leave you exhausted
- withdraw from relationships, work or fun activities or become irritable
- have difficulty concentrating
- have aches and pains unrelated to exercise or any medical condition
- have difficulty eating or sleeping properly.
Sometimes stress builds up and takes on a life of its own – so that we feel anxious, even when not facing difficult situations.
Recognising the signs and symptoms of stress will help you figure out ways of coping and save you from adopting unhealthy methods such as drinking or smoking.
You can talk to your doctor about ways to help you bounce back and become more resilient to stress.