Different things in life can cause you to feel stressed. Feeling stressed is a natural response to help you take on threats and difficult situations. This is also known as the fight or flight response. In small doses, stress can be helpful. It can motivate you to meet a deadline or study for an exam. But when it’s constant and overwhelming, it can have negative effects on your health, both physically and mentally.

Everyone experiences stress in different ways. And what may be stressful for one person may not be for another.

What is Stress?

Stress is your body’s way of responding to demands. It can be caused by both good and bad experiences. When people feel stressed by something going on around them, their bodies react by releasing chemicals into the blood.

Cortisol is a stress hormone that’s released by your adrenal glands. This hormone signals your body to release sugar into your bloodstream, so you have more energy to deal with a perceived threat. Cortisol also suppresses functions that are not essential for immediate survival, such as digestion, reproduction, and growth.

These hormones are designed to help the body cope with a challenging situation, either by fighting it or fleeing from it. This reaction is known as the fight-or-flight response and is a natural survival instinct that kicks in when we perceive a threat. The stress response can also be referred to as the alarm stage of the General Adaptation Syndrome, which was first described by Dr Hans Selye in 1936.

In small doses, cortisol is necessary and helpful. But when cortisol levels are constantly high, it can lead to weight gain, high blood pressure, diabetes, and other health problems.

What causes stress?

There are many things that can cause stress, including work, school, relationships, financial concerns, health problems, or toxic environments. Some common sources of stress include:

  • Pressure to meet deadlines or perform well at work
  • Difficult relationships with friends or family members
  • Large amounts of debt or other financial obligations
  • Chronic health problems, such as arthritis or heart disease
  • Exposure to toxins, such as lead or mercury.

How Stress Affects Your Body

When the body reacts to stress, it releases chemicals into your bloodstream that prepare you for a life-or-death situation. Although this response is helpful in some situations (such as when you’re being chased by an animal or jumping from a plane!), constant stressors can lead to health problems over time. As your body tries to cope with stress, you may notice symptoms such as:

  • Headaches or migraines
  • Nausea and diarrhoea
  • Chest pain and rapid heartbeat
  • Trouble sleeping, concentrating, or remembering things.

Chronic stress can lead to more serious health complications over time, including heart disease and anxiety disorders.

If you’re under a lot of pressure at work, school, or home, it’s important to find ways to manage your stress.

What are the symptoms of stress?

Stress is your body’s way of responding to threats or other difficult situations. Some common symptoms of stress include headaches, nausea, difficulty sleeping, concentration problems, and rapid heartbeat.

It has emotional, physical, and psychological symptoms, such as:

Feeling overwhelmed:

that everything and everyone demands your attention at once. Feeling like you’re in over your head can lead to anxiety and depression.

Feeling anxious or fearful:

this can cause muscle tension, chest pain, rapid heartbeat, and shortness of breath.

Lacking in self-esteem:

when you feel like you can’t cope with a situation, you’re more likely to have self-doubt and lose confidence in yourself.

Being irritable or wound up:

feeling on edge all the time can make you more likely to snap at people or have outbursts of anger.

Feeling tired all the time:

stress can wear you down both mentally and physically, leaving you feeling exhausted.

You may also experience:​

  • racing thoughts,
  • constant worrying, and
  • difficulty concentrating or making decisions.

What are the Treatments for Stress?

There is no one-size-fits-all solution for stress, but there are many ways to manage it.

It is not always possible to change stressful situations. Therefore, it is important to speak to a therapist and learn techniques for how to manage your stress and the situation, and perhaps discover that you have more control than you think.

Dealing With Stress

Stress is a common problem that can have both short- and long-term effects on our physical, mental, and emotional well-being. The good news is that there are many strategies for managing stress and reducing its negative effects on your health.

Some tips for coping with stress include:

  • Exercising regularly: exercising releases endorphins, which have mood-boosting effects.
  • Eating a healthy diet: eating nutritious foods helps your body to better cope with stress.
  • Getting enough sleep: sleep gives your body time to recover from the day’s activities and can help improve your mood.
  • Meditating or practicing relaxation techniques: these can help to clear your mind and reduce stress.
  • Doing something you enjoy: finding a hobby or activity that you enjoy can help take your mind off stressful situations.
  • Avoiding drugs, alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine: these substances can further increase stress levels.
  • Spending time with friends and family: social support is an important part of managing stress.
  • Talking to a counsellor about your stress: if your stress is chronic or severe, seeking professional help can be beneficial.

Whatever strategies you choose, it’s important to remember that managing stress takes time and effort. With a little patience and dedication, however, you can find ways to cope with the challenges in your life and reduce the negative effects of stress on your health.

If you are struggling with an anxiety disorder, it is important to seek professional help. There are many resources available to help you get the treatment you need.