Woman feeling overwhelmed on a phone call.

There’s No Avoiding Stress

We can’t avoid certain stressful situations: never-ending deadlines, your child’s PSLEs, increasing cost of living ($2 for a prata? Daylight robbery!), and an MRT breakdown that derails your entire day. Whatever the cause, it’s normal to feel some stress living in fast-paced Singapore.

Fret not, stress is an essential part of life— without it, we wouldn’t be motivated to face challenges. But too much stress over a long period (chronic stress) can take a toll on us physically and emotionally, potentially leading to damaging effects.

When does stress cross the line to become harmful to our wellbeing?

Related: Stress-O-S! How Do You Cope with Stress?

When the Kan Cheong Spider Bites

Young woman anxiously studying

Being a kan cheong spider - constantly feeling hurried and anxious - can cause stress which becomes harmful when it gets in the way of daily life, whether health, relationships or work.

Here’s a possible scenario: say we’re trying to be healthier. Stress could hinder our progress by making it more difficult to break bad habits or build good ones.

For example, we might stress-eat on an entire tub of ice cream after a terrible day. Feeling dejected and guilty, we might spiral into negativity and lose sight of our healthy eating goals.

Or we might give up our workout routine because we’re overwhelmed by work.

Related: Stress

Recognising Stress Symptoms

So how can we handle stress and keep our stress levels manageable? The first step to stress management is to be aware that we’re stressed out. Here are the signs you should look out for.

Behavioural Signs of Stress

Man having trouble sleeping due to chronic stress

Stuffing ourselves with a bag of chips after a bad day is human; some days we just can’t help it. But take note, appetite changes — eating more or less than usual — is a possible sign of stress.

Over time, this can be a problem to your health: binge-eating could lead to weight gain and obesity—which increases our risk of developing high blood pressure, heart disease and other weight-related health problems—while eating too little could mean you’re not getting enough nutrients.

Another warning sign? Having trouble sleeping, or waking up tired, which could also impact your health: lack of sleep can make you grumpy and lethargic the next day, and you might feel unmotivated to exercise.

When you’re stressed out, you might also turn to smoking or excessive drinking, habits that may give you a temporary buzz. These habits do not actually reduce stress and will not address the source of stress itself.

Another sign of stress is social isolation and withdrawal: you may find yourself turning down meetups and gatherings you’d normally attend.

Related: Study Shows Teens Suffer When They Give Sleep a Rest

Emotional Signs of Stress

Young woman writing down her feelings in a journal to reduce stress.

Stress not only affects how you act, but also how you feel. Not in touch with your emotions? A good way to be more aware is to record your feelings in a notebook daily.

Some emotional signs of stress include excessive worrying or feeling overwhelmed — not your everyday kan cheong, but anxiety that affects your ability to work or function.

You might also feel tense, moody, irritable, depressed or restless.

Related: 5 Easy Ways to Improve Your Mood

Physical Signs of Stress

Headaches and neck aches could be signs of stress

To recognise signs of stress, you also need to listen to your body: aches, pains, headaches, and tiredness are some of the effects of stress taking its toll on you physically. Other signs include stomach-aches and heart palpitations.

Related: Your Guide to Stress Management

Cognitive Signs of Stress

Woman shopping and having trouble deciding what to buy.

Lastly, don’t forget the mind! Stress can make you “blur like sotong” — you might be more forgetful, and have trouble concentrating, organising, or making decisions.

You might also find yourself worrying more or thinking negative thoughts.

Learn How to Deal With Stress

Once you’re more aware of the different signs of stress, the next step is to take a closer look at some unhealthy ways we cope with stress and what we can do about them.

Download the HealthHub app on Google Play or Apple Store to access more health and wellness advice at your fingertips.

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