Stress – by Alicia Paterson, Clinical Psychologist

Stress is the experience of feeling overwhelmed and tense about a situation or event we perceive to be too difficult. It is an imbalance between environmental demands and our coping resources and it can have significant implications on our physical and emotional wellbeing. There are two different kinds of stress; acute stress and chronic stress. 

Acute stress is typically short in duration and in response to specific events such as a near car accident, an assessment, or upcoming work deadline. Mild acute stress can actually be beneficial in some cases as it can help up prepare for future life stressors by building up our “stress immune system” or mental toughness. We can learn to view stressors as more manageable and can become better equipped to deal with them. For some people, however, when the stress is severe or life-threatening it can lead to more significant mental health problems such as Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). 

Chronic stress on the other hand is stress experienced over a long period of time without relief and/or is sometimes experienced when a number of stressful events cumulate. This can occur in situations such as long-term marital disharmony, chronic health concerns, or ongoing financial hardship. Chronic stress can have significant implications for a person’s social-emotional and physical wellbeing. Common Symptoms of Stress include:

  • Irritability
  • Nervousness
  • Emotional sensitivity
  • Aggression
  • Muscle tension
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Lower immune system
  • Irritable bowel symptoms
  • Tearfulness
  • Impaired attention and concentration

To help mitigate the symptoms of stress self-care is imperative. This includes making time to relax and participate in activities you enjoy, eating a healthy balanced diet, establishing a good sleep routine, regular exercise and mindfulness. More information about stress can be found by the following links: