Stress is our body’s natural response to pressure, when when we have too much on our plate. Stress can be helpful, for instance if we have a deadline to meet we will often experience stress which will act as a driver. And life without some stress could be boring, some might say. But too much can make us unwell.
When we are stressed it is hard to think straight and we may notice that we are making mistakes more often. We may become irritable with ourselves and with others. We may self medicate through drinking too much alcohol, for example, or we may notice an increase or decrease in our appetite. Stress causes worry which often makes it harder to get a good night’s sleep, which has a further knock-on effect.
For people who are already prone to anxiety or low mood, this can become worse when we are under too much stress. If, for instance, you have health anxiety that was a bit of an issue for you but you managed it pretty well, stress can cause this to tip into something unmanageable. In this instance we would want to address the stress first and then the health anxiety.
CBT can be helpful for stress, especially as many people have beliefs about being a failure if they cannot manage their workload. For some people there may be things that they are doing that are contributing to workload stress, for instance when self-doubt leads to over-checking. Whatever the cause, it is important to unpack how the stress is being maintained, both in terms of external demand (e.g. work) and internal (e.g. self-doubt, perfectionism).