What is work and/or school related stress?
You have a deadline coming up. A presentation. A project. Now you’re having trouble sleeping, find yourself procrastinating, and even being irritable. These are all symptoms of stress. Without any self-care or actions to reduce stress, we can develop chronic stress or even burnout.
Some stress is necessary for all living systems; it is the means by which they encounter and respond to the challenges and uncertainties of existence. The perception of danger sets off an automatic response system, known as the fight-or-flight response, which, activated through hormonal signals, prepares an animal to meet a threat or to flee from it.
But this lifesaving response was meant to solve short-term, life-threatening problems, not extended difficulties such as daily traffic jams or marital problems—a few of the many challenges that can hijack the stress response today.
Many people today feel they perpetually struggle with stress and anxiety. Society’s obsession with productivity, the steady stream of digital information we consume, increasingly sedentary lifestyles, and feelings of overwhelm may contribute to the stress that so many are feeling.
Common symptoms of stress include:
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Appetite disturbance
- Muscle tension
- Trouble concentrating
- Moodiness, irritability, or anger
- Increased use of alcohol, drugs, or cigarettes
- Nervous behaviors (e.g. nail biting, fidgeting, and pacing)
- Avoiding responsibilities
Prolonged or repeated stress can lead to burnout. Signs of burnout, a concept distinct from stress, include three key markers: emotional exhaustion, cynicism and depersonalization, and reduced personal efficacy.
There are both healthy and unhealthy responses to stress. Unhealthy responses can include turning to alcohol, drugs, or gambling. Healthy coping strategies include meditation, exercise, journaling, practicing gratitude, and trying to let go of what is beyond our control.