Stress Awareness

Are you Distressed or De-stressed?

Wednesday 7th November is National Stress Awareness day; here at Body2fit we have put together an article which is aimed at providing the general public to think about their wellbeing, and guidance on how to manage stress. To maintain our wellbeing, we need to be able to remind ourselves about some of the signs and symptoms of short term and long term stress, and how best to manage and reduce levels of stress.

We all hope you enjoy the article!

What is Stress?

There’s no universally agreed medical definition of stress. At its most simple, stress is your body’s physical response to mental or emotional pressure. Our jobs, relationships, family life or money can all add to our levels of stress.

When you’re stressed, your body believes it’s under attack and switches to what’s known as ‘fight or flight’ mode. As a result, a mix of hormones and chemicals are released into your body so that you prepare for physical action. Blood might also be diverted to muscles, causing you to lose concentration or become less able to digest food. In the short term, stress can be useful to help deal with a challenge such as an interview, or starting a new job, however prolonged long term stress can lead to a range of physiological symptoms that can begin to affect our health.

Stress can affect how you feel, think, behave and how your body works, but we all experience it differently. Sometimes you might feel like you can’t see beyond the thick fog of stress, but other times you might not even recognize you’re stressed.

Early signs of stress can include sweating, headaches, and losing your appetite or your ability to concentrate. Spotting these signs early, and taking appropriate action, will help prevent your stress from getting worse.

Be aware of things like:

  • Drinking or smoking too much
  • Overeating
  • Sleeping poorly
  • A racing heart
  • Shaking, chills or hot flushes
  • A tingling sensation in your arms or legs
  • Butterflies in your stomach

You may also experience:

  • Headaches
  • Muscle tension or pain
  • Dizziness
  • High blood pressure
  • Indigestion or heartburn
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Shallow breathing or hyperventilation

What’s causing your stress?

Stressors are those things in your environment that cause you to become stressed. For example, these could be pressure at work, problems with your health or worries about money.

Some stresses are more severe and can be prolonged, which can be associated with trauma or a significant life event, this can be often associated with post-traumatic stress and requires professional help and guidance.

“Stress and its association with pain”

Similar to how we view pain as normal we can or should view stress as normal. It is not the stress that is bad but our response to that stress. If you have a large increase in stress or something has changed in your life where it is harder to cope with stress then stress can increase your sensitivity and can increase your chance of having pain.

Not only is stress related to the persistence of pain, it is also related to how we recover. High levels of stress can impair our recovery from physically taxing components of our lives.

When you first have pain it can be associated with a stressful event. That stress and the chemicals associated with that can make it easier for future stress to trigger pain. Its like a memory that gets triggered by a song or a smell. It doesn’t mean that you are weaker or have injured or re-injured yourself, it means that you are sensitized and its easier for normal life stresses to trigger a pain response.

Stress Management/Methods to control Stress

Physiotherapists are skilled to take a detailed history/assessment of your lifestyle, the pressure you perceive to be under and your ability to cope. Advice on how your can change your behaviour, and relaxation techniques such as diaphragm breathing can be taught.

Healthy Lifestyle – To reduce the level of stress in your life and cope effectively, a change in behaviour is required. Just as good physical health requires healthy eating, fresh air and exercise, good mental health requires the elimination of the factors that are increasing stress in your life and putting in place good practices to ensure adequate leisure and relaxation. This will create balance in your life and increase your ability to cope

Good physical health

Your Chartered Physiotherapist will teach you the necessary relaxation techniques and give you appropriate advice. And should you need more specialist help, your Chartered Physiotherapist will liaise with your doctor to ensure that you are referred for appropriate counselling and treatment.

Physical exercise in general can stimulate our “happy” hormones”, and help to release our body’s natural pain-killers to ease stress, and aches and pains associated with stress.

Guidelines from the chartered society of physiotherapy promote a mix of general exercise to help combat short term and long term stress, this can include:

  • Cardiovascular exercise daily for 30minutes- (walking moderate pace), running, swimming, cycling. *Promote activity that you will enjoy, you will therefore be more likely to remain consistent.
  • Resistance exercise- Pilates, swimming, exercise classes/gym that’s includes lifting weights
  • Yoga (popular for its range of exercise to improve tone, flexibility, and mindfulness.

Mindfulness Techniques

Similar to the relaxation method mentioned previously. There is an increasing amount of people turning to mindfulness techniques taken from the historical background of meditation. There are useful applications that can be downloaded on your phone or tablet such as “headspace” to assist with allowing the mind to feel less pressured and reduce stress.


In the busy world we live in every day can seem to blend into one, as time passes and we are under prolonged stress, at times we can forget about friends/family due the demands or work/family. Socialization with friends/family will help to reduce stress, talking through any particular issues or distracting the mind from the pace of everyday life.

Our Physiotherapy staff at Body2fit can help you talk through any stress related concerns, particularly if you can relate this in relation to on-going persistent physical pain. In addition, if we feel you could benefit from other professional advice we can signpost you to see the right health professional.

 Andrew Atkinson, Senior Physiotherapist Body2fit, MCSP, SRP, ACPSM.


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