When does Stress become a Problem?

(c) jtanki

(c) jtanki

The word, "stress" seems pretty ubiquitous in our everyday language.  It's not uncommon to hear people say, "I'm so stressed out!" or "there's just too much stress!"  Based on the findings of the Canadian Community Health Survey (2011),  23.6% of  Canadians aged 15 and older reported that most days were 'extremely or quite a  bit stressful.'  Gender differences were noted, such that 25% of females reported that most days were 'quite a bit' or 'extremely stressful,' compared with 22% of males. 

There can be countless of sources of stress; it can arise from positive events (e.g., getting married, having a baby), negative life events (e.g., a health-related crisis, death of a loved one), daily hassles (e.g., argument with your spouse, being stuck in traffic), or major life events/milestones (e.g., promotion, retirement).   

Is all stress bad for you? The fact is, stress is a normal and unavoidable aspect of our daily living, and without the stress of overcoming challenges, changes, and hardships in our lives, we would not grow to develop resilience or "grit."  So the old adage, what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger, rings true where stress is concerned.  

What are some common symptoms of stress?  Due to the non-specific nature of some of these symptoms, prior to concluding that a symptom you have is stress-related, especially if it is a new symptom, please consult your doctor.  Of course, people often find that stress can makes an existing physical or emotional concern worse or more difficult to manage.  Here are some common signs and symptoms of stress:   

  • Feeling tense, restless, on edge
  • Feeling irritable
  • Feeling tired most of the time
  • Concentration difficulty
  • Uncontrollable worry
  • Increased muscle tension
  • Inability to fall asleep or stay asleep
  • Loss of appetite or overeating
  • Drinking too much caffeine or alcohol
  • Smoking more than usual

When does stress become a problem? Stress becomes a problem when it significantly affects your emotional well-being, self-care, or your ability to function at home, work, or in your personal relationships.  

What to do when stress is taking a toll? In the next article, strategies for managing stress better will be shared.  However, for additional support, consult a health care professional with expertise in stress reduction.