Take our test to see which type of stress you could be experiencing – then read on for Sally’s advice for dealing with the issues.
1. Which of these best sums up how you’re feeling at the moment?
a) Hyper and manic
b) Teary and upset
c) Bored and listless
d) Negative and anxious
2. And how long have you been feeling this way?
a) Not too long and in all honestly this feels temporary
b) Probably no more than a couple of weeks
c) Too long and something needs to change – fast.
d) You can’t remember the last time you didn’t feel like this
3. The first thing you do when you turn up to the office on a Monday is:
a) Furiously flick through your diary with a sense of excitement for the day ahead (multiple coffees in hand)
b) Look at your diary, think ‘I can’t do this without eating three croissants back to back’
c) Look around you and think ‘not another day of this’
d) You’re 15 minutes late again and don’t even bother to check your diary – if anyone needs anything from you, they’ll ask
4. You’ve been given an interesting work project but a very tight deadline. What do you do?
a) Excitedly rush through it, coming up with as many great ideas as bad ideas as you steam along
b) Feel tears spring to your eyes then slink away to the toilet because you’re embarrassed – why does your boss keep doing this to you?
c) Just get through the task – the sooner you’ve done it, the sooner you can go home
d) You don’t really find yourself being given projects like this anymore
5. What’s your mood during a dinner party with friends?
a) You tell everyone about all the things you have going on in your life right now
b) You keep feeling the urge to argue with your best friend whose opinion you normally respect
c) You’re mostly looking on while your friends chat – you don’t have any exciting news to relay right now
d) You haven’t done dinner with friends for months – you’re not the best company at the moment
6. You’re going on holiday tomorrow. Are you…
a) Excited but feeling a bit manic thanks to a never ending to-do list
b) Feeling anxious about whether you’ll get everything done in time and already thinking you’re going to have to log in occasionally to keep on top of emails
c) Already dreading the day you have to come back
d) Rushing to the pharmacy to stock up on anything that will ward off the illness you know you’re going to be hit with the second you board the plane
7. The yoga class you’ve been looking forward to all day is cancelled just as you’ve rolled out your mat and started warming up. How do you take it?
a) That’s okay. It’s half an hour until the next class – you can pop to the shops in that time. And send those two urgent work emails
b) Get angry immediately and fume as you march back to the changing rooms
c) Just your luck. Why did you even bother?
d) You haven’t been to yoga in months – feels like a lot of hard work right now
Count up how many a, b, c and d answers you recorded and check out the results of the corresponding majority. If you have two predominant answer types, it’s worth checking out both to gain as many practical solutions as possible for moving past this period of stress.
Before you read your answer: Stress is your body’s response to difficult or demanding circumstances and the most important thing to remember is that it’s completely normal, so don’t be hard on yourself. It’s also important to remember that stress is complex and that there’s never one single cause. A whole variety of factors, from genes to childhood experiences, can lead to it. It’s acknowledging your stress and knowing how to respond to it that’s important. There are ways to protect yourself from stress. Know your triggers and take a positive step in solving problems. Engage in your own wellbeing. Block out negative people. Do things that are good for your body as well as your mind. Manage your time and try not to do too many things at once. Reflect on what you’ve achieved and try to accept things you cannot change. Also remember that good stress (eustress) once in a while helps us survive and perform but bad stress makes us ill and ultimately can be a killer. Make an appointment with your GP if you feel your stress is affecting you emotionally or physically.
You could be suffering from eustress. Eustress is a short-term stress and can be useful and beneficial. You have extra energy, inspiration and motivation – and more focus and energy to perform. We’d all be couch potatoes without this type of stress once in a while! Just remember to check in with yourself and acknowledge these excited feelings when you feel them – and be wary of these feelings tipping over into a more serious form of stress. Busy, busy, busy can all too easily lead to burnout. See our workbook Avoiding burnout for more advice (log in required).
You could be experiencing hyperstress. Hypestress is a short-term condition and occurs when you’re working above normal capacity – dealing with a heavy workload or tight deadline, for example. During periods of hyperstress, emotions run high and even the smallest events can trigger an emotional outbreak. Did you just burst into tears at work or lose your temper with your partner? This could be a sign of hyperstress.
Take a moment out for yourself to really see what’s going on inside. Calling someone to talk through your feelings is another way to feel better. Our workbooks Avoiding burnout and 60 minutes to Wellbeing will help too.
You might be experiencing a form of hypostress. Hypostress is the opposite of hyperstress and occurs when you’re bored and feeling disengaged. It’s characterised by a sense of restlessness and lack of inspiration, and is a direct result of not having things in your life that challenge, inspire or motivate you. It could be because you’re not in the right job, for example – or maybe you’re living with the wrong person.
Look inward and ask yourself what it could be before taking the necessary steps to improving your situation – looking for a new job, ending an unhealthy relationship, for example. If the problem is your role or organisation, our Ambition hour workbook will help you get back to what you want to achieve and help you feel more motivated to tackle your situation.
You could be suffering from a form of distress. Distress can lead to clinical depression and is characterised by feelings of negativity, anxiety, trauma and mental suffering. It could be a reaction to an upsetting event, such as the death of a family member, but isn’t always necessarily related to a specific experience.
There are two types of distress: acute and chronic. Acute distress is a short-term response to a directly perceived threat – either physical or psychological. The threat could be real or imagined and as simple the anxiety involved in packing your case and making sure you get to the airport on time.
Chronic stress is a long-term condition that occurs frequently and can lead to serious health problems such as depression, diabetes, heart disease, weight gain or loss. Chronic distress is insidious – you can get so used to it that you don’t realise it has overwhelmed you. Are you suffering from it? Check next time you go on holiday or take time off. Do you instantly feel ill as soon as you switch off from work? Then you may be suffering from chronic distress. You’ve been working at such high levels of stress for so long that your immune system is affected when you stop and you end up feeling ill.
Distress is the most important type of stress to recognise in yourself and others because it can be a killer. If you suspect you are suffering from distress then make an appointment with your GP. They may refer you for CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) or counseling.