Although just enough stress can be a good thing, feeling overwhelmed is a different story. Stress overload isn’t good for anyone.
For example, feeling a little nervous about a project or family event can motivate you to focus. But becoming exhausted can make it hard to concentrate on the tasks and determine what to do first.
Pressures that are too intense or last too long, or troubles that are shouldered alone, can cause people to feel stress overload. Here are some of the things that can overwhelm the body’s ability to cope if they continue for a long time:
- Being bullied or exposed to violence or injury
- Relationship stress, family conflicts or the heavy emotions that can accompany a broken heart or the death of a loved one
- Ongoing work overload, conflicts with colleagues or job dissatisfaction
- Crammed schedules, not having enough time to rest and relax, and always being on the go
Learn more: Dial down the stress
Some stressful situations can be extreme and may require special attention and care. Post-traumatic stress disorder is a strong stress reaction that can develop in people who have lived through a traumatic event, such as a serious car accident, a natural disaster or an assault.
Some people experience anxiety that can cause them to overreact to stress, making even small difficulties seem like crises. If a person frequently feels tense, upset or worried, it may be a sign of anxiety. Anxiety problems usually need attention, and many people turn to professional counselors for help in overcoming them.
Signs of stress overload
People who are experiencing stress overload may notice some of the following signs:
- Anxiety or panic attacks
- A feeling of being constantly pressured, hassled and hurried
- Irritability and moodiness
- Physical symptoms, such as stomach problems, headaches, or even chest pain
- Allergic reactions, such as eczema or asthma
- Problems sleeping
- Drinking too much, smoking, overeating or doing drugs
- Sadness or depression
Everyone experiences stress a little differently. Some people become angry and act out their stress or take it out on others. Some people internalize it and develop eating disorders or substance abuse problems. And some people who have a chronic illness may find that the symptoms of their illness flare up under an overload of stress.
Tips to reduce or manage the stress in your life
- Eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly. A healthy, well-balanced diet and exercise can keep your body fit and able to fight disease. Exercise also is an excellent way to lift up your mood.
- Talk about your stressful situations with someone you trust. Sometimes just talking about your problems and concerns can help you put them into perspective. It can also give you insights into ways to deal with them.
- Stay organized to help manage your time more efficiently.
- Remember, no one can do it all alone. Ask for help.
- Use relaxation methods to calm your mind and body.
- Get professional help if you need it.
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