What is stress?

Feeling stressed

The stress response is essential for our wellbeing. It’s our body’s way of preparing to fight or flee danger, passed down from our distant ancestors.

But now, instead of being chased by a woolly mammoth, our ‘threat’ is something like a work deadline. And stress is a physical and emotional reaction to feeling unable to cope with it.

Some signs of stress

We all react to stress in different ways. You may have become so accustomed to feeling a certain way that you don’t even realise it’s linked to being stressed.

Some symptoms include:

  • Tiredness or difficulty sleeping
  • Headaches
  • Stomach upset
  • Exhaustion
  • Frequent minor illnesses
  • Feeling tense
  • Increase in smoking or alcohol consumption
  • Emotional changes or outbursts
  • Poor performance and concentration

Kalms Day are a traditional herbal remedy used to relieve stress

Coping with stress

Coping with stress starts with understanding your triggers, the parts of your life that cause you to feel the symptoms of stress.

Money-related stress

Money keeps many of us awake at night. When bills mount up, it’s tempting to try and ignore the problem. But that may only make things worse.

Prioritising your bills will make you feel more in control. Plan a realistic budget. If you’re having problem paying bills, talk to the companies concerned. You might be surprised to discover how they can help you out. And the Citizen’s Advice Bureau have people trained to help.

Work-related stress

Every job has pressures and responsibilities that can lead to feelings of stress, or finding it hard to cope and do your job well.

Start by taking the time to think about which aspects of your job seem to be the most stressful. For example, if you find time management challenging, try to write down your day’s tasks and do a difficult one first. You may feel a lot better about the rest of them.

Family stress

Some family stress is almost inevitable. The best advice is not to bottle things up. The brief stress of resolving a problem is much better than the lasting stress of a dispute that goes on and on beneath the surface.

Some hints and tips

Picture the good times

When you find yourself dwelling on a stressful situation, try instead to focus on a time when you were more relaxed and happy.

Take ten

When life is causing you stress, it can be hard to see things in a balanced way. If you can, walk away from the situation, take ten minutes to get some fresh air and help put things in perspective.

Give yourself time

The fear of being late is a common cause of stress. When you know you have a place to be, plan ahead to be good and ready and leave earlier if you can.

Eat well

Your diet can have a huge effect on the way you feel. Make sure you’re eating a balanced diet (but you can still have some feel-good treats). For more advice of health eating, visit nhs.uk/Livewell/Goodfood/Pages/the-eatwell-guide.aspx

Get some exercise

All kinds of exercise are good for stress, to take your mind off your problems and make you feel better. You don’t need a gym membership – hop on a bike, swim, go for walks ... every little helps.

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