article icon


Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen MartinReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 4 minutes read

Stress is an umbrella term to describe how your body reacts to threats, demands, or injuries. An automatic protective response that many people are aware of is the 'fight or flight' reaction to stressful situations that come up suddenly. In the right setting, this can be life-saving or even sharpen your mind and help you focus.

However, if your stress response is inappropriate or your body is under constant threat, it can bring your nervous system into disarray and affect many aspects of your life, disrupting your health, mood, and relationships. Stress can be a cause or the result of a problem, but it's best to manage it and reduce it where possible to avoid it taking over your life.

What are the symptoms of stress?

Symptoms of stress can be so varied and wide-ranging. Some symptoms can be very difficult to recognize as stress-related and so makes it difficult for individuals to address them.

Physical symptoms can be headaches, migraines, sweating, tiredness, and dizziness. It can also result in chest pain, a racing heart or palpitations, and muscular tension or pain, such as shoulder pain. Some people develop constipation, diarrhea or stomach pain. Others find it causes sexual dysfunction, such as erectile dysfunction or loss of libido. People also experience skin and hair-related issues with stress, which can cause breakouts and hair loss.

It can affect your ability to concentrate or remember things. You may feel unable to deal with certain situations, causing worry and avoidance, and these can develop due to other mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression. We can support you with a guide on how to seek help for anxiety and depression.

Some may try to compensate in different ways or practice avoidance behavior by drinking, smoking or taking street or party drugs. The body may respond with excessive eating or under-eating, excessive sleeping or sleep disturbance and insomnia.

It can affect relationships with others, causing you to avoid certain people or situations or causing you to feel isolated or becoming tearful, worried, and irritable.

What causes stress?

Stress can be caused by many things; for example, a stressful job, a difficult relationship, financial difficulties, or grieving. Some people feel under stress by situations that are outside of their control or in times of uncertainty, like the pandemic. It can also be caused by health problems and by lifestyle choices, such as an unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, smoking, or drinking alcohol.

How can I manage my stress?

It is important to recognize that certain stressors are affected by your perception of the situation and how you deal with that situation. Having experience in that situation, support from others, or a reduced number of other stressors at the same time will affect how you deal with the stress. Once you have identified that you may be responding to stress, it is important to identify your triggers. This can help you consider ways to tackle it and be more prepared if it crops up in the future or continues to cause distress.

It is important to look after yourself as much as possible through these difficult times by resting and sleeping well, exercising regularly, staying well hydrated, eating nutritious and well-balanced meals, and arming yourself with many techniques to calm yourself and relax in stressful times or situations.

There are a number of relaxation and mindfulness apps available, as well as online support groups.

What can my doctor do?

Sometimes speaking to your doctor will be valuable as they may be able to point you to places to get some more help, for example, talking therapies for cognitive behavioral support. If your stress causes you to feel like you want to harm yourself or others or end your life, it is important to speak to a medical professional urgently. This can be done by contacting your local crisis team, your doctor, calling 911 for an ambulance, or going to the emergency department.

Was this helpful?

Was this helpful?

Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed on 19.10.2023
App Store
Google Play
Piff tick
Version 2.28.0
© 2024 Healthwords Ltd. All Rights Reserved