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Stress, much like anxiety, is a normal reaction to difficult situations. If we didn't experience stress to some degree we would be in bigger trouble than when we do experience it, but sometimes it can creep up on us until we are so entrenched in it that is starts to affect our physical, social, cognitive and emotional health.
Physically: We may feel fatigued or lack energy, and is linked to substance use and over or under eating. Our immune system can become stressed and we will experience more colds or other illnesses or infections. We may develop stomach or pain, ulcers, and it may also lead to hypertension, irregular heart beat, chest pains, stroke or a heart attack.
Socially: We may become withdrawn or destroy relationships with our irritable or depressed behaviour or our lack of availability. This can be a double edged sword as social support is an important buffer to stress and a waning social network can increase the stress level.
Cognitively: Stress can take a huge toll on our memory. When we are under a lot of stress we often forget many of the things we did recently, the things we said, or even where we went. We may have difficulty thinking clearly or coming up with the right words to say what we want.
Emotionally: Stress has been linked to sleeplessness and feelings of irritability, angry outbursts, depression, guild, self-hate and helplessness.
We live in a high stress society with tremendous pressure to keep up with or out-perform our neighbours. Technology is adding to the expectations of what we should be able to accomplish in a day. Divorce rates have sky rocketed. The access to social media keeps up informed of the world events which are often frightening or worrisome. The social pressures of young people through twitter, Facebook, Intagram, snapchat, tumblr, etc... are devastating. There is greater pressure to have, have, have. We live in a society of instant gratification putting pressure on parents to provide. In the Fraser Valley housing costs are rising dramatically causing more concern about how a young family will afford a home. I could go on and on about the current pressures but I think you get the point.
All of these stressors add up and often we are not even aware of just how stressed we are.
Try one these brief stress inventories to check your own stress level.
Anxiety Disorders are the most common mental health concern in Canada. Fortunately, they are also highly treatable.
Anxiety is a normal reaction to any difficult of new event. It is normal to feel nervous or anxious in certain situations such as public speaking, writing an exam, or signing a large contract. Sometimes anxiety can take over our lives and limit us in ways that become problematic for us. This is called an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders are extremely common and can affect our social life, family relationships, work or school. The real tragedy with mental health disorders is the negative stigma that goes along with it. It is very likely that someone you know has an anxiety disorder and they do not talk about it. Unfortunately, anxiety generally becomes worse if not treated and can frequently lead to or co-occur with other conditions such as depression or substance abuse. The effect of an anxiety disorder may start out as minor but can quickly become debilitating. If you think you might be suffering from an anxiety disorder consult with your doctor or contact a mental health professional. Don't wait until it becomes out of control.