Do you struggle to cope with the pressures of daily life?
Do you feel overwhelmed and unable to manage everyday demands?
If the answer to either of these questions is 'yes,' you may be experiencing symptoms of stress.
Stress is the body's response to a threat or difficulty. Lots of things can cause stress, including work, relationships and money problems. Stress can affect how you feel, think, behave and how your body works – from how well you sleep to your immune system.
Stress can cause physical, mental and emotional changes, as well as changes in behaviour.
You may experience your heart pounding, a feeling of nausea, your breathing becoming quicker or your muscles becoming tense. This is sometimes called the fight or flight response.
Once a threat passes, these physical effects of stress usually fade. But if you're constantly stressed, your body stays in a state of high alert and you may develop stress-related symptoms long term, such as headaches, muscle pain, sleep problems, tiredness.
Stress can cause feelings of overwhelm, irritability, anxiety and low self-esteem. Suffering from stress can put you at risk of developing mental health conditions such as depression.
You may experience worrying, problems with concentration or difficulty making decisions. This can cause problems with functioning in your daily life, for example at work.
Changes in Behaviour
Some people may engage in behaviours to cope with stress, such as drinking or smoking more, or overeating. This may cause them to feel slightly better in the short term, but long term can cause you to feel even worse and may create other problems such as addictions. Emotional changes due to stress, such as feeling you cannot cope, may lead to you avoiding things or people you are having problems with.
Lots of things can cause stress. Big life changes often create stress, even happy events like having a baby or getting married.
Feeling like you aren't in control of events in your life – for example, if you're diagnosed with a serious illness or you get made redundant – can also cause stress.
Many people suffer from stress related to work. This could be due to a high workload, unemployment, or retirement.
Going through difficult events such as divorce, bereavement, financial problems, relationship difficulties or being a carer, moving house or problems with neighbours can all cause stress.
How to tackle stress
You can't always prevent stress, but there are lots of things you can do to manage stress better.
Exercise helps mental wellbeing as it causes the body to release a chemical called endorphins which improve the mood and create a feeling of wellbeing.
Exercise can also help with clearing your thoughts and letting you to deal with your problems more calmly. Aim to do at least half an hour of exercise each day during which your heart is beating faster and you feel slightly out of breath. This could be through going for a brisk walk, running, swimming, taking part in an exercise class or playing a sport you enjoy.
Studies have shown that meditation and mindfulness can help reduce stress, improve your mood and even lower blood pressure. You could try downloading some relaxation and mindfulness apps on to your phone.
Connect with people
A good support network of friends and family can ease your troubles and help you see things in a different way. We often have a good laugh with them, which is an excellent stress reliever.
Have some 'me time'
Here in the UK, we work the longest hours in Europe, meaning we often don't spend enough time doing things we really enjoy. Try to take at least one hour each day to do something that you enjoy, for example engaging in a hobby or doing something creative.
Setting yourself goals and challenges, whether at work or outside, such as learning a new language or a new sport, helps to build confidence. This will help you deal with stress by helping you become more emotionally resilient as a person.
Avoid unhealthy habits
Try not to use alcohol, smoking, caffeine or overeating as ways to cope with stress. While these things can provide temporary relief it will likely make things worse in the long run by negatively impacting your physical health and creating habits which are difficult to break and can cause further stress in the future.
Help other people
Helping others, especially those in situations worse than yours, will help you put your problems into perspective and help you become more resilient as a person.
If you don't have time to volunteer, try to do someone a favour every day. It can be something as small as helping someone to cross the road or giving up your seat on public transport for someone who needs it more.
If you've tried self-help techniques and they aren't working, see your GP. There are lots of other options open to you, such as guided self-help or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).