What are the symptoms of Stress – How to Spot and Avoid

The month of April has been designated Stress Awareness Month. We Are Wellbeing’s team of physios and personal trainers discuss What is stress?

“Stress is usually a reaction to mental or emotional pressure. It’s often related to feeling like you’re losing control over something, but sometimes there’s no obvious cause. When you’re feeling anxious or scared, your body releases stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol.”

This is the NHS’s definition of stress.

Now we have to be careful here because although stress is a reaction to pressure, being under pressure is not the same as being stressed. Too much pressure will cause stress but pressure itself is not always a bad thing.  Some people work better under pressure, some people react very badly to pressure.

So how does stress manifest itself in my patients and clients? And more importantly how do I help people combat it?

From a physical point of view, stress has several symptoms.  These include, but are not limited to –

  • Aches and pains.
  • Chest pain or a feeling like your heart is racing.
  • Exhaustion or trouble sleeping.
  • Headaches, dizziness or shaking.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Muscle tension or jaw clenching.
  • Stomach or digestive problems.
Matthew McArdle, resident physio at We are Wellbeing, discuss how to deal with stress effectively:

“The first thing I do when a client tells me they are stressed is try to determine if it’s really stress or is it just that they are busy and under pressure-as I stated above, very different to stress. Being busy and under pressure can be down to organisation and not knowing how to say no. If it’s being busy and under pressure we will consider the daily routine to help them get more organised… oh and develop the ability to say no.

“However, if it’s stress we’re dealing with then we deal with it slightly differently, although the outcomes we are looking for are similar.

“The first thing you need to do is identify the physical symptoms that are due to the stress.  Now there’s no point in just dealing with the symptoms, you need to deal with the cause of the symptoms as well. 

“From my point of view, dealing with the symptoms is the easy part and the part that is my day job really.  Often just getting moving properly will help with alleviating the aches and pains that stress can create.  In my experience, many people carry stress and tension in their neck and shoulders, and this often leads to headaches. 

“But like I said, dealing with the symptoms is relatively straightforward and easy.  You need to look at the causes of the symptoms and what can be done to alleviate them.  Health problems can lead to stress and anxiety so we will begin by looking at what we can do to deal with these.  If that involves referring clients on to other services/professionals that’s what will happen.

“However, lots of stress and anxiety is caused by other factors; work, relationships, finances etc. 

“Now as a physio and personal trainer I am in no way qualified to advise people in these areas.  However, I can point them in the right direction to get the help they need.

“I encourage self-care.  This takes on many forms and is different for every person.  Taking a bath, a bit of “me” time, exercising, enjoying a walk, absolutely anything that reduces anxiety and stress levels. 

“One of my favourite self-care activities is to switch off my phone!  Try it for a day or half a day.  Leave your phone off and after 2 or 3 hours I can almost guarantee your stress levels will lower.  I make a point of switching my phone off in an evening from 9.30pm until after I eat my breakfast and I leave it off all day on a Sunday.  It is blissful.  And over time people learn that they cannot contact you during those times so they stop trying.

“So the advice is; identify the cause of your stress and anxiety and seek help to deal with those causes, deal with the symptoms and introduce real self-care into your day.

“Until next time, take care of yourselves.


We Are Wellbeing’s message this Stress Awareness month is to try to learn how to say no, and give yourself proper self-care throughout April.

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