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Stress, Fear & Anxiety


Stress is part of everyone's daily life e.g., when you feel overwhelmed with work, when you have too many choices to make, when you're caught in a downpour without umbrella on your way to an important meeting.

Stress is experienced as something outside of your range of easy management. You can handle stressful situations some days, but because of tiredness or just too much to do, it can reach such heights that it interferes with thinking and talking. Your communication style probably changes when you are stressed, e.g., the 'right' words don't come to mind easily, or you just can't say them easily. Your usual calm self may show in your voice so that it may become scratchy and thin. Or it may show in what you say, using words beginning with 'f' that are not a usual part of your vocabulary.

Reflecting on how you feel when stressed can become stressful in itself: you may worry that you are unable to control your feelings, or that you will gain a reputation for being intolerant or impatient, or that people will not want to have you around.

Understanding why you become stressed and how the brain responses to stress may help. Dr. Harry Barry explains psychological aspects of stress and anxiety in terms of reactions experienced from the flow of information between the 'logical brain' (in the pre-frontal cortex) and the emotional brain or limbic system (in the middle of the brain). Responses to what we do everyday are divided between the emotional and the logical brain. In a panic, the emotional brain responds first, and you start to feel normal symptoms of anxiety. If you react to normal anxiety with thoughts of fear and flight, this escalates into panic and you will experience more symptoms. Before anxiety turns to panic, you must apply 'logical brain' thinking. If you rationalise the anxiety and face fears, the normal feeling of anxiety will run its course before escalating and uncomfortable feelings will subside. The aim is to strengthen the logical brain so you can control the emotional brain's responses and not to allow panic to be overwhelming. To learn more about dealing with anxiety and panic, listen to this interview between Dr. Harry Barry and a broadcaster.
Student Learning (TCD) website on self management
Breathing exercise to help with stress

Last updated 4 April 2013 by Listen, Speak & be Heard (Email).