Article is written by Home Doctor Brisbane Team

With 2017 quickly drawing to a close you may be wondering, where did that year go? We can become so consumed by our busy schedules that when we finally stop to take a break we can feel a little worn out.

Working extra hours, studying hard, running around after the kids and trying to keep up with your social life can all lead to one thing. Exhaustion! While burnout is not a medical disorder, prolonged stress can have a number of negative consequences.

Stress can result in:

  1. Difficulty controlling emotions.
  2. Mental health problems (anxiety, depression and personality disorders).
  3. Promotes certain diseases (including cancer and lung diseases) for those more prone to them.
  4. Damage your heart muscles (high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms, heart attacks and stroke).
  5. Cause weight gain.
  6. Weaken your immune system.
  7. Gastrointestinal upsets.

Symptoms of prolonged stress

While it’s normal to feel stressed every now and then, prolonged stress can wear us down and make us feel physically and mentally sick. Sadly, most of us can’t recognise that we’re stressed until we’re already at breaking point.

Common symptoms of stress include:

  • Easily agitated, frustrated, and moody
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Difficulty relaxing and ‘switching-off’
  • Low self esteem or feelings of worthlessness
  • Fatigue or lack of energy
  • Headaches
  • Upset stomach
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Clenched jaw and grinding of teeth
  • Constant worry
  • Racing thoughts
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Poor judgement
  • Forgetfulness
  • Disorganisation
  • Change in appetite
  • Procrastination
  • Nervous behaviours – nail biting, fidgeting and pacing

How to deal with stress

While stress is a facet in most of our everyday lives, learning mechanisms to cope with stress can help.

1. Schedule ‘me’ time

Our schedules are usually packed full of obligations like work, study or parenting commitments. While these may bring us joy if we aren’t looking out for ourselves too we can become overwhelmed and stressed.

That’s why it’s important to schedule a little ‘me’ time into every day. This is simply something that brings you joy and is just for you. It could be a short walk, a hot bath, reading a chapter of a new book or meditation.

2. Get adequate sleep

Sleep deprivation can leave you feeling mentally and physically exhausted, impair judgement and alter our moods. Adding our daily stresses into the mix can only worsen symptoms.

If you’re not getting enough sleep try:

  • Make sure your room is comfortable, quiet and relaxing.
  • Set a bedtime routine.
  • Avoid caffeine before bed.
  • Don’t use your smartphone or watch TV for up to an hour before bed.

3. Eat a nutritious diet

When we’re busy it’s easy to let our diet slip. While it may be difficult to find the time, eating a nutritious diet is important to keeping stress at bay. Healthy foods can help replenish nutrients and combat stress levels. Here’s a list of 12 foods to help fight stress.

4. Exercise for fun

While it may not seem fun for everyone, exercise is a great way to help fight off stress. Getting the body moving helps release endorphins, or happy hormones. It may be the last thing you feel like doing at the end of a busy day but just 30 minutes of brisk walking can help boost your mood.

5. Speak to your doctor

If you’re feeling stressed and the above tips are not helping it may be time to speak to a trusted health care provider. Often the symptoms of stress can be associated with other medical conditions.