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Stress

Overview

Stress is a natural human response to pressure when faced with challenging and sometimes dangerous situations. That pressure is not only about what’s happening around us, but also about demands we place on ourselves.

Experiencing stress is part of being alive, and some stress helps increase our alertness and energy to meet challenging situations. If stress lasts a long time or overwhelms our ability to cope, it can have a negative affect on our health, wellbeing, relationships, work and general enjoyment of life.

Stress can affect how you feel, how you think, how you behave and how your body works. Sleeping problems, sweating, loss of appetite and difficulty concentrating are all common signs of stress.

There are also different kinds of stress.

Acute stress is the most common. It comes from demands and pressures of the recent past and anticipated demands and pressures of the near future. Overdoing short-term acute stress can lead to psychological distress, tension headaches, upset stomach and other symptoms.

Episodic acute stress occurs when a person suffers acute stress more frequently, creating chaos and crisis.

Chronic stress occurs when a person never sees a way out of a miserable situation. It is the stress of unrelenting demands and pressures for seemingly interminable periods of time that wears people away day after day, year after year. Chronic stress is the stress of poverty, of dysfunctional families, of being trapped in an unhappy marriage or in a despised job or career.

There are many things you can do to manage stress more effectively, such as learning how to relax, participating in regular exercise and adopting effective time management techniques.

Recognising the signs and symptoms of stress will help you figure out ways of coping and save you from adopting unhealthy methods such as drinking or smoking.

You can talk to your doctor about ways to help you bounce back and become more resilient to stress.

Sources: mindhealthconnect (Stress), NHS Choices, UK (Stress)

Last reviewed: 
February, 2013