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Signs & Symptoms of Stress

Chronic health problems of any kind can produce symptoms of stress in both the patient and the care partners.  Being aware of the unique symptoms that you experience when you are feeling overwhelmed helps you be pro-active and make some changes in your life before the symptoms escalate.

  • When you feel out of control and confused due to an unexpected challenge such as a chronic illness, you experience symptoms of stress. When you are unable to satisfy your longing for the things that really matter to you, you may become frustrated and discouraged.
  • The symptoms of stress fall into 4 categories and can interfere significantly with your ability to cope. They may accentuate some of the symptoms of the disease you are already experiencing.

The four areas where we experience the symptoms of stress are:

  • Behavioural symptoms: procrastination, withdrawal from friends and family, increase or decrease in appetite, decrease in energy, inability to sleep, low motivation to participate in normal activities of life or the use of drugs or alcohol to cope.
  • Emotional symptoms: feelings of sadness, depression, anxiety, irritability, low frustration level, excessive crying or angry outbursts.
  • Mental symptoms: loss of motivation and concentration, decreased ability to complete daily tasks as your mind is consumed with worry and fear, decreased memory, reduced capacity for decision making, poor problem solving ability and loss of hope.
  • Physical symptoms: excessive fatigue, physical weakness, headaches, lower back pain, muscle tension leading to tremors and spasms, increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, increased respiratory rate, irritable bowel syndrome and digestive complaints.

Take a moment to list the symptoms that you have that you think might be related to stress. What could you change today that would help you decrease these symptoms. Don’t get caught into thinking you have to make some big, significant changes as small, simple changes make a big difference. Simply sleeping in a little longer, practicing meditation, going for a walk, asking for a little help, or eating a little better can improve your resilience a lot. The most important thing you can do to decrease your stress is to find a small step forward and to take it with courage and hope. Taking a conscious and positive action to deal with your situation is the single most important thing you can do to improve how you feel.

Further Reading

Explore more about: Chronic Illness or For Caregivers

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