Although stress can feel unpleasant, it can serve a useful purpose. Stress can help you be more proactive when dealing with problems, and motivates you to reach your goals, ultimately making you a smarter, happier and healthier person.

However, unfortunately, feeling constantly stressed can be a catalyst for depression, anxiety and mood disorders—serious conditions that make stress a leading cause of poor health (source: Stress Management Society).

In order to manage stress, there needs to be a deeper understanding of what it is, what symptoms are involved and when it is time to seek help.

What is stress

Stress is a normal human reaction that happens to everyone. It is part of a natural survival mechanism and is how we react when we feel under pressure or threatened. It usually happens when we are in a situation that we don’t feel we can manage or control.

Stress can be positive, keeping us alert, motivated and ready to avoid danger. For example, if you have an important exam coming up, a stress response might help your body work harder and stay awake longer. But stress becomes a problem when stress continue without relief or periods of relaxation.

 

Good Stress Vs Bad Stress

Good stress will generally have the following characteristics:

– Motivates, focuses energy

– Is short-term

– Is perceived as within our coping abilities

– Feels exciting

– Improves performance

 

However, bad stress will have the following characteristics:

– Causes anxiety or concern

– Can be short- or long-term

– Is perceived as outside of our coping abilities

– Feels unpleasant

– Decreases performance

– Can lead to mental and physical problems with related health disorders

Symptoms of stress

Stress can cause many different symptoms. It might affect how you feel physically, mentally, and how you behave.

It’s not always easy to recognise when stress is the reason you’re feeling or acting differently. For a full list of mental and physical symptoms as well as behavioural changes, head over to the NHS Stress page. If you’re not sure how you feel, try the NHS mood self-assessment tool.

 

Understanding the Risks

Chronic, negative stress can lead to more serious, long-term conditions. It is best to seek help for stress management if it is persistently interfering with your daily life.

Some of the risks of untreated chronic stress include:

– Depression/Anxiety: Chronic stress can increase the risk of developing depression if you aren’t coping with the stress well.

If you’re having trouble coping, chronic stress can wear you down and overwhelm you. You may frequently be in a bad mood; your productivity may decrease, and you might even find it difficult to go about your normal daily routine.

 

– Gastrointestinal Issues: You may have noticed a feeling of unease in your stomach during times of stress. That’s because anxiety and worry can upset the delicate balance of digestion.

According to the NHS, in some people, stress slows down digestion, causing bloating, pain and constipation, while in others it speeds it up, causing diarrhea and frequent trips to the toilet. Some people lose their appetite completely, and it can affect Irritable Bowel Disorder (IBS). Although psychological disorders, like anxiety and stress don’t cause this digestive disorder, people with IBS may be more sensitive to emotional troubles. Click HERE to read the full study

 

– Heart Disease: According to the British Heart Foundation, feeling constantly stressed could trigger heart and circulatory disease. It has been linked to higher

activity in an area of the brain linked to processing emotions, and an increased likelihood of developing heart and circulatory disease. Click HERE to read the full study.

 

Things you can try to help with stress – Check out our Stress Less page, packed with tools and tips to help you gain back control.

 

– Talk to your friends, family, or a health professional about how you are feeling.

You could also contact Samaritans, call: 116 123 or email: [email protected] if you need someone to talk to.

– Try these effective 10 stress busters – including getting started with exercise and setting aside time for yourself.

– Try these simple time-management techniques.

 

– By breathing slower and deeper from your stomach, you signal your nervous system to calm down. Here are some effective calming breathing exercises you can try.

 

– If you know you have a stressful situation coming up, plan ahead – planning long journeys or making a list of things to remember can really help.

 

– consider peer support, where people use their experiences to help each other. Find out more about peer support on the Mind website

– listen to free mental wellbeing audio guides

 

See a GP if:

– you’re struggling to cope with stress

– things you’re trying yourself are not helping

– you would prefer to get a referral from a GP