Stress is a response in your body & brain which occurs when you believe you are under more pressure than you believe you can cope with. Most people have experienced stress at some point, and the things which one person finds stressful may not be so bad for somebody else.

In the short term, some stress can actually be good for you; it pushes you out of your comfort zone, which can feel a bit scary, but which can help you to achieve things, for example a runner may feel under pressure before a big race, or you might feel really nervous before a job interview but the chemical reaction in their body may actually help them to perform better.

Over time though, too much stress can be damaging to the body and brain.

How does it affect me?

  • Physically, your body prepares itself for 'Fight or Flight' mode. Hormones called ‘Adrenaline’ and ‘Noradrenaline’ are released which increase your blood pressure and make you sweat more. They also reduce blood flow to the skin and reduce stomach activity.
  • The stress hormone called ‘Cortisol’ is also released into the body. Cortisol causes fats and sugars to be released into the body and can lower the efficiency of the immune system.
  • These bodily changes are designed to make it easier to fight or run away from your problems, however this isn't so useful when you are feeling stressed over problems in the office or whether you will be able to make your credit card payments on time. When these stress chemicals are not used up they remain in the body. This can lead to longer term health problems such as issues with digestion and breathing and in more severe cases heart attack and stroke.
  • Stress can cause changes in your emotions. You may feel anxious or scared, frustrated or even depressed. The problem with stress is that the symptoms can often feed on one another. You can be stressed and so become frustrated which makes you more stressed. The symptoms you experience emotionally can also produce physical changes, which again can leave you feeling more stressed than you were to begin with.
  • Stress can cause you to behave differently. For example: you may have trouble sleeping, feel tearful, notice changes in your sexual habits or show unusual aggression

What helps?

Finding the right thing to help with stress may depend on what has caused the stress in the first place. The following tips are useful as a general guide to tackling stress:

Be self aware - When it comes to stress knowing your own mind and body can be really useful – this is because if you can recognise the early warning signs of stress you can do something about them before they become overwhelming.

Unwind - Everybody is different, so we all have different things which will help us to unwind. The things that appeal to one person may be totally unappealing for somebody else. It’s good to find what works for you; here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Talk about it
  • Go for a run
  • Dance to your favourite songs
  • Take a bath or shower
  • Indulge yourself with something special
  • Listen to music to lift your mood
  • Watch a favourite feel good film
  • Write a to do list to clear your mind
  • Go for a walk
  • Organise things
  • Do some housework
  • Spend time in the garden or a green space
  • Take some time out for yourself
  • Do some yoga
  • See your friends
  • Spend time with a pet
  • Play games
  • Read a book or magazine
  • Cook or bake
  • Enjoy a warm drink
  • Do something nice for yourself or someone you love.

Look at things from a new perspective - If a friend or family member was experiencing this stress what would you advise them to do?If this feels very difficult then perhaps you could ask someone close to you to help find a way to tackle the problem.

Know when you need to get more help - Stress can creep up on us. It’s important to recognise your limits and know when you need support from someone else. Your GP is a good place to start. They may be able to put you in touch with things that can help locally.

You may also find it useful to look at this booklet from the NHS, which you can access by clicking here.

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