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We all feel stressed from time to time. It’s part of life. If it goes on for too long, it can be uncomfortable, even overwhelming, and can affect your physical health.

Most of us will know the feeling of struggling to cope with the everyday life demands, an important or distressing event or a big change in our life. We worry, get irritable with other people and just can’t relax. Stress is the way that our bodies and minds react when this is happening. It includes emotional feelings, physical symptoms and changes in how our bodies function.

What causes stress?

Almost anything that affects your daily life, work or relationships. These include the death or serious illness of a loved one, divorce or separation from a partner, changes in work circumstances or financial problems. Even events that seem positive – such as marriage or the arrival of a new baby – can be very stressful.

What does stress feel like?

It can feel completely different for different people.

The physical symptoms might include:

  • Feeling tired or lethargic
  • Having trouble sleeping
  • Going off food or eating more than normal
  • Nausea, stomach aches and changes in bowel habit
  • Aches and pains
  • Headaches

Sometimes when you get suddenly stressed or anxious, you may notice that you breathe fast (but shallow), that your heart is racing, your mouth is dry and your palms are sweaty. These seem to be part of a “fight or flight” response that is “built in” and helps us to cope with dangerous situations.

You may also feel:

  • Anxious or worried
  • Angry or irritable
  • Depressed, sad or tearful
  • That your situation is hopeless or overwhelming
  • Unable to concentrate
  • That you’ve lost your sense of humor
  • More likely to blame yourselves or others for a situation
  • Unable to unwind and enjoy thing

How can you cope with stress?


  • Recognizing that you are stressed is the first step.
  • Talk to friends or family about how you are feeling.
  • Break down big tasks or problems into smaller parts that are easier to deal with.
  • Focus on self-care.
  • Watch your drinking and smoking.
  • Physical exercise

Professional help:

  • Medications
  • Engage in psychotherapy. Techniques that seem to be helpful are mindfulness, progressive muscular relaxation, breathing exercises…