The importance of
At this stage of our lives, we may be transitioning into different roles such as embarking on a new course of study, starting a new job, or forging relationships with new friends and colleagues.
Navigating these experiences is exciting but not easy, especially if we are dealing with them for the first time. However, we have the power to take care of our mental wellbeing by understanding and managing stress, so that we can be in a stronger and more resilient position to face life’s challenges and opportunities.
Why do we feel stressed?
Stress is a common word that we hear often. We all seem to know what it’s like to feel stressed but what exactly does it mean?
Stress is a normal response to everyday pressures. Daily needs and demands such as responsibilities, decisions, relationships, and money can cause stress.
Stressors trigger the release of two types of hormones in the body — adrenaline and cortisol.
Adrenaline is a fight-or-flight hormone. It causes an increase in heart rate, breathing and blood sugar levels. It also diverts blood flow from our digestive system to our muscles.
Cortisol is a stress hormone, triggered when we feel threatened. It directs energy from other parts of the body to the brain to deal with the threat. After the danger has passed, cortisol levels should decrease and return to a normal state.
However, if we are under constant stress, excessive cortisol could lead to health problems such as rapid weight gain, high blood pressure, etc.
Fight, Flight or Freeze:
The three natural coping responses
FightFight is a response to literally fight the real or perceived danger.
FlightThis means we are preparing to run away from the stressor.
FreezeThis means being unable to respond in the presence of the stressor.
Stress can be triggered by both positive and negative events in our lives. Even happy events can cause stress if they bring about major changes.
Stress is caused by our perception or evaluation of situations. When we deem the event to be threatening and beyond our ability to cope, we would become stressed. For example, someone may view a new job as stressful, but another may see it as a challenge and feel excited about it.
Common causes include:
- Uncertainties about the future
- New and increased responsibilities
- High expectations from others and ourselves
- Relationships and friendships
- Death of loved ones
- Loss of income
- Managing personal finances (e.g. insurance, investments)
- Excessive noise
- Traffic jams
- Time pressure
- Stress faced by people around us
- Negative remarks from others (e.g. through social media) and peer pressure
- Unrealistic comparisons of things we see online
Work & studies
- Exams and assignments
- Finding a job
- New job
- Challenges at work/studies, e.g. not being able to meet deadlines
- Performance pressure
- Competition at work/studies
- Lack of work-life harmony
Health & safety
- Health of family members/pets
Everyone responds to stress differently. Our body sends out various physical, cognitive, behavioural,and emotional warning signs, such as:
(How your body might react)
- Headaches, migraines
- Stomach aches
- Muscle tension
- Rapid heartbeats
- Sweaty palms
- Chronic fatigue
(How you might think)
- Poor concentration
- Difficulty in organising and making decisions
(How you might behave)
- Acting in a defensive, aggressive or impulsive manner
- Nervous habits (e.g. stammering or biting nails)
- Avoidance of tasks
- Withdrawal from social activities
- Drinking or smoking excessively
- Sleep problems
- Loss of appetite or overeating
(How you might feel)
- Anxiety and being bad-tempered
- Excessive worrying, moody
- Sadness, fear
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Restlessness or irritability
stress, or eustress, helps us to cope with
challenging but important life events.
Is stress good?
How does prolonged stress affect us?
Prolonged stress can affect our mental well-being in the following ways:
How to manage stress
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Stress is a normal response to everyday pressures.
The Stress subscale is a set of 7 questions adapted from the Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scale (DASS) that those aged 14 and above can use to assess their reactions to stress levels and ability to relax.
Please note this is a self-assessment and not a medical diagnosis.