Self Help and Stress

Contents:

  1. How to recognise stress
  2. What causes stress?
  3. How stressed am I?
  4. Reducing stress
  5. Self-help resources
  6. Act now!
  7. Perceived Stress Scale (PSS)
  8. Helping agencies
  9. Disclaimer
  10. Page 1: Stress Information

How to recognise stress

Stress affects the way we think, the way we feel inside, changes our behaviour and has very real physical effects.

Here are some of the ways in which stress affects us

Thinking

  • Poor memory
  • Can't concentrate
  • Pessimistic thoughts
  • Racing thoughts
  • Worry

Feeling

  • Moody
  • Irritable
  • Overwhelmed
  • Resentful
  • Unhappy

Physical

  • Aches and pains
  • Feeling sick
  • Chest pain, rapid heartbeat
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Coughs and colds

Doing

  • Changes in appetite
  • Changes in sleep
  • Not going out
  • Avoiding things
  • Using alcohol, cigarettes or drugs to cope

People with stress may shut themselves away from others, which can make it harder for them to get help. Long periods of stress can lead to long-lasting changes in us, so if we feel stressed we should do something about it as soon as we can.

What causes stress?

Most of us find similar things stressful. Public speaking is a good example. Remember though, stress is very personal. Stress affects people differently. Our genes, our life experiences and our outlook all play a part in how stressed we feel.

  • Being unable to control our environment - e.g. poor housing, redundancy, limited freedom, prejudice, stigma, restricted mobility
  • Life experiences such as poverty, unemployment & uncertainty at work
  • Conflict with other people, relationship breakdowns, bullying at work or school and domestic or emotional abuse
  • Major life events such as births, deaths, marriage and divorce
  • Chronic health conditions, physical impairment, addiction or poor sleep
  • Unrealistic deadlines and pressure to achieve in work or school
  • Feelings of insecurity and self-doubt can make us more vulnerable to the effects of stress

How stressed am I?

Have a look at these four questions. They are from a questionnaire called the PSS-4.

NeverAlmost neverSometimesFairly oftenVery often
In the last month, how often have you felt that you were unable to control the important things in your life?01234
In the last month, how often have you felt confident about your ability to handle your personal problems?43210
In the last month, how often have you felt that things were going your way?43210
In the last month, how often have you felt difficulties were piling up so high that you could not overcome them?01234
My total =

Add up your scores for the four questions. Your score will be between 0 and 16. There are no 'hard and fast' rules, but if your score is around 8 or more, you may want to take stock of the amount of stress in your life.

This won't give you a diagnosis - that's something only a qualified health professional can do - but it will give you a better idea about your symptoms.

You can download a PDF of the above table here: PSS-4 Table

Reducing stress

Antidepressants and talking therapies (counselling or psychotherapy) are very helpful and can be accessed through your GP. You should contact your GP early if you think you might be becoming depressed. Mindfulness can help too, especially if you have been depressed before.

There are many approaches to the treatment of stress. If at first you find one doesn't work, try different approaches until you find one that you feel comfortable with and that works for you.

The vast majority of people with stress are treated by their GP. Often, antidepressants won't be your doctor's first choice. Sometimes talking can be just as effective as tablets.

If you are prescribed antidepressants, they can take several weeks to work so don't give up hope. Sometimes they work best when taken for a longer time, and they shouldn't be stopped suddenly without medical advice.

The first appointment with your GP can feel difficult, especially if you view stress as a 'weakness' (it isn't!) so it might be helpful to write down what you want to talk about before you go. Make a note of any questions or worries you might have. Some people find it helpful to take a friend or family member along.

Stress makes us feel alone and helpless, and it can be hard to summon the energy to get help. A simple 'phone call to your GP can get things moving and start you on the road to recovery.

Acting opposite

Stress makes us shut ourselves away and slows us down. It can be very hard, but keeping active and staying with people can be very helpful. Remaining in work or returning to work might be very hard too, but can help us keep a sense of control. Keeping a normal daily routine is usually much better than withdrawing and staying in bed. We might feel like shutting ourselves away, but doing so can make things worse.

Dealing with things

Putting off problems can make them mount up. Are there things in your life you're putting off dealing with? Might an advocate or some extra support help? The Citizens Advice Bureau can help with a range of issues from housing to money worries. Doing things to address our problems relieves the burden and makes us feel 'in control' again.

Repairing Relationships

If you're struggling with a difficult relationship, or anxiety is causing problems in your relationship you can find a list of national relationship helping agencies, or speak to your GP about other types of relationship counselling.

Avoiding alcohol and drugs

Alcohol is a depressant - it lowers the mood. Other non-prescribed drugs can have similar effects and are best avoided. If you think alcohol or drug use might be a problem, you can contact DAN 24/7, the Wales Drug and Alcohol Helpline: DAN 24/7 website or call them on 0808 808 2234.

Self-help resources

There are many good books and websites that can help. Again your GP, practice nurse or primary care mental health practitioner will be able to recommend from a range of excellent and helpful material.

Act now!

The sooner treatment starts, the sooner you'll feel better! If you've been affected by anything you've read here, contact your GP now. Don't delay in seeking help. Stress sometimes lifts on its own, but why take the chance?

Speak with your GP or a health professional for extra information or to get on the road to recovery today.

Perceived Stress Scale (PSS)

The questions in this scale ask you about your feelings and thoughts during the last month. In each case, you will be asked to indicate by circling how often you felt or thought a certain way. There are no right or wrong answers. Do not spend too much time on any one statement. This assessment is not intended to be a diagnosis. If you are concerned about your results in any way, please speak with a qualified health professional.
0 = Never | 1 = Almost Never | 2 = Sometimes | 3 = Fairly Often | 4 = Very Often
1In the last month, how often have you been upset because of something that happened unexpectedly?
2In the last month, how often have you felt that you were unable to control the important things in your life?
3In the last month, how often have you felt nervous and 'stressed'?
4In the last month, how often have you felt confident about your ability to handle your personal problems?
5In the last month, how often have you felt that things were going your way?
6In the last month, how often have you found that you could not cope with all the things that you had to do?
7In the last month, how often have you been able to control irritations in your life?
8In the last month, how often have you felt that you were on top of things?
9In the last month, how often have you been angered because of things that were outside of your control?
10In the last month, how often have you felt difficulties were piling up so high that you could not overcome them?
Total PSS score =

The PSS consists of multiple choice questions. Items include choices on a 5-point scale. Items number 4, 5, 7, and 8 require reverse coding. To compute the total assessment score, sum all scale items. Total scores will range from 0 to 40.

You can download a PDF of the above table here: PSS Table

Helping Agencies

You can find a list of national agencies that can help with stress here: National Stress Agencies

Disclaimer

This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. We have used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. We recommend you consult a doctor or other health care professional for the diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions, or if you are at all concerned about your health.