Stress Awareness: Part 1 - The signs and symptoms

Thursday, April 29, 2021

For Stress Awareness Month, our Head of Services for Learning Disability, Autism and Mental Health, Clare Metcalfe, has created a two-part blog about understanding the signs and symptoms of stress and the top tips for managing stress.

Stress Awareness Month has been celebrated every April since 1992. The campaign aims to increase public awareness about both the causes and cures for stress. According to the Mental Health Foundation, 74% of UK adults have felt so stressed at some point in the past year they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope.

Stress is one of the greatest public health challenges and significant factors in mental health. It’s something we all deal with at some point in our lives, whether it’s work-related or in our personal lives. According to our sponsored charity of the year, Mind, “The pandemic, and the subsequent restrictions designed to prevent its spread, are having a profound impact on the mental health of young people and adults. Some age groups have been affected more than others.”

Although the pandemic has been a significant factor in the increase of stress, it’s also important to be mindful that stress in the workplace has been on the rise. The HSE states that in 2019-2020, 828,000 people experienced work-related stress, depression, or anxiety. This was significantly higher than the previous year, which tells us that the increase in numbers was not COVID-19 related.

According to a survey ran by Forbes, employee stress levels ‘have risen nearly 20% in three decades’.


The most common emotional and cognitive symptoms of stress

It is not always easy to recognise stress. Every individual is different, and people are affected by stress in many ways. The signs of stress can appear in many forms. It’s important to recognise that you may not be coping with certain pressures in your life and understand you may be dealing with stress.

When experiencing stress, you may find yourself feeling immense anger or continuous exhaustion whilst another person could have trouble concentrating. There are many common signs of stress to watch out for. Here is a list of the most common signs and symptoms.



Insomnia is a common sleep disorder that can make it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep. It can lead to waking up too early or not being able to get back to sleep. Most people will still feel tired even when they wake up. Insomnia can decrease energy levels and affect your mood, health, work performance and quality of life. Concerns and worries about work, health, personal life, and finances can keep your mind active at night and lead to insomnia over time.



Stress and anger are closely linked. When controlled, stress can be healthy for the body in small amounts. In some circumstances, high levels of stress can result in outbursts of anger or frustration. When dealing with stress regularly, people can find it difficult to control and know when to take a break. Many people use anger to deal with stress despite it not being the most appropriate method.


Mood changes

Feeling stressed and overwhelmed can cause mood swings. Mood swings can happen a lot when working in a fast-paced environment where things can change quickly. This can lead to a build-up of stress which may result in changes to your mood. It can be difficult at times to remain positive when there is continuous stress in your life.



Stress exhaustion can impact people mentally, physically, and emotionally. When your exhaustion comes from stress, it is known as mental exhaustion. It is caused by worrying or handling a difficult situation in your life. It is a result of thoughts and feelings rather than physical exertion. Stress exhaustion can often result in low productivity in day to day activities such as working and general self-care.


Lack of concentration

High levels of stress can result in a lack of concentration. If you're dealing with something that is continuously on your mind, it can be difficult at times to focus on day to day activities such as work or exercise and family time. Stress can take over your mind without you even realising it.


Anxiety and depression

When stress becomes very overwhelming and prolonged, the risks of mental health problems increase drastically. Long-term stress can eventually lead to anxiety and/or depression if it’s not managed which can cause many other problems such as sleep problems, poor eating, and muscle pain.

Long term stress can eventually lead to anxiety or depression if it’s not managed. In some cases, some individuals may end up suffering from both anxiety and depression.


By being aware of the above signs and symptoms of stress, you are more likely to recognise them in yourself and make positive changes to your lifestyle to prevent them from happening. Whilst it is important that you acknowledge the signs and have a plan in place for yourself, it is also key that you can create a positive environment for others.

In part 2 of the blog, we will discuss the top tips for managing stress, keep an eye on our LinkedIn and Facebook pages on Friday for part 2.