24 July 2017 Last updated at 03:25 GMT

Are you stressed out?

Stress is common, yet it is seldom given the recognition that it deserves. Research has proven that 70 per cent of stress injury claims were directly caused by workplace relations. Often people do not even realise that they are stressed, as the signs vary amongst individuals and can be difficult to determine. 

Are you out of emotional balance? If you are experiencing a period of change in your life, or feeling under pressure, listen to your body to determine if there are any irregularities that you have noticed.

Even if you acknowledge that you are stressed, you cannot mentally block it out. Your body is clever and it turns stress from an emotional reaction to a physical problem. To individuals, stress can be seen as a heightened state of emotion while, to doctors, it can be any combination of anxiety, mood changes and low energy levels. Therefore, it is important to seek a professional diagnosis and avoid the temptation to self-diagnose.

There are some key symptoms and behaviours that suggest you are out of emotional balance and may need to take treatment-focused steps.

Sleep problems are a clear sign of stress and chronic sleep deprivation is a serious health issue. Early morning wakening can be linked to depression, while the inability to fall asleep, is often linked to anxiety.

Stress and anxiety can also lead to changes in behaviour such as a loss of libido and greater reliance on alcohol or recreational drugs to lift moods and relax. In addition, an increase of risky behavior, including gambling, binge drinking and sexual promiscuity are signs of amplified stress levels. High levels of stress can deplete the immune system which increases the frequency of colds and flus, particularly during the colder months.

The first and most important step is to exclude high blood pressure. It is a common misconception that anxiety and stress can cause high blood pressure when the truth is, that high blood pressure (which is usually hereditary) can cause feelings of stress. If untreated, high blood pressure significantly increases risk of strokes and heart disease.

Type 2 diabetes is another ailment which may go undetected with symptoms that appear similar to stress, causing mood changes, irritability and tiredness.

While stress can be crippling, there are some simple measures that can be introduced to your daily routine to help to improve your sense of inner balance and cope with emotional stress. An increase in aerobic exercise (a minimum of 20 minutes of sustained exercise such as walking, biking or swimming) is the most potent and effective stress reliever. It provides the added benefits of lowering blood pressure, weight, glucose and cholesterol levels, as well as boosting natural endorphins. Activities such as meditation or yoga can relieve inner tensions, while also building overall strength, both mentally and physically.

Through improved sleep hygiene, the potential for a restful night significantly improves. Alcohol and recreational drug intake affects the quality of your sleep and may impact upon your emotional state.

Pressures from family, work and finances have the tendency to cause stress for us all. However it is the way in which you respond to stress that is important. The most critical step is to listen to your body and recognise that stress is a normal human reaction to life’s challenges and it is ok to ask for help. The best place to start is your local GP.

With medical knowledge spanning more than 30 years, Dr Michael Olenski specialises in preventative medicine and early disease diagnosis at Iris Medical. He has practiced as a general practitioner since 1984, taking on a preventative approach to medicine over the past 10 years. In addition to working in a medical practice, Dr Olenski has also previously hosted a national medical talkback program on Triple M in 1993, winning an award from the AIDS Council of Victoria for his interview with an AIDS patient. He is also currently the backstage doctor for international performing artists at Melbourne’s top venues including the MCG, Rod Laver Arena, AAMI Stadium, Etihad Stadium, Palais Theatre and Festival Hall.

This story originally appeared in the Dec 2012/Jan 2013 edition of Australian Business Solutions magazine.

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