Stress is one of those words we use so often it has almost lost its meaning.
When was the last time you heard, “I’m so stressed out”, “I’m stressed to bits”, or “my head is wrecked”? Chances are, it wasn’t too long ago.
When young people come to Jigsaw with feelings of stress, we assure them that it’s not possible to completely rid your life of it. But, it is possible to better manage, and reduce your stress levels.
Stress is your body trying to tell you something so learning to listen to it is a good start.
What is stress?
Stress is a signal that our body or mind gives us to let us know that something is not great and needs to be looked at.
For pre-historic or early humans, stress appeared in response to a serious danger or a threat, like meeting a tiger while hunting for food. Stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol gave us the boost we needed to deal with the predator: either ‘fight or flight ‘.
Our bodies still respond to a threat in the same way today, even though the tiger has been replaced by a maths exam or a row with our boyfriend/girlfriend. Stress can cause a physical reaction: our body gets tense and our heart rate speeds up.
Is stress always a bad thing?
Stress isn’t always a bad thing. In fact a little bit of stress can be helpful. The caveman can run away from the tiger, and you get the energy boost to tackle two hours of trigonometry questions.
But too much stress can also cause us to freeze; the caveman pretends to be dead when he meets that tiger because he can’t out-run it. For you, there’s a big exam in a few days and all you can do is stare at the cover of your books. You’re frozen in indecision because you don’t know where to start, so to briefly get away from the stress you look at YouTube instead.
Stress rarely appears alone. You might also be feeling down, anxious, angry, irritable, overwhelmed or overloaded. Stress can interfere with our sleep and leave us lacking motivation and make it difficult to concentrate.