What is stress?
Stress is your body’s natural response to mental or emotional tension or pressure. When faced with a challenging event or circumstance, your nervous system springs to life and triggers your ‘fight or flight’ response.
Your body releases chemicals like noradrenaline, adrenaline and cortisol into your brain and bloodstream, all while you decide whether to face the situation or run away from it.
Stress is a normal part of life, and it can sometimes be a good thing. This process happens many times every day and we need a certain amount of stress to help us function and make decisions.
However, there is such a thing as too much stress and, if left untreated, this can have a negative impact on your long-term physical and mental health. It can lead to anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease, so it’s a good idea to address the problem before it gets that far.
Our online doctors can discuss your situation with you, identify what’s causing your stress and recommend the best treatment.
Who is affected by stress?
Everyone. As we’ve said, stress is a natural part of life and you can’t avoid it.
However, because it is something everyone has to deal with, many people don’t consider speaking to a doctor about it when it gets too much. But doing so could mean you get the help you need before the problem becomes serious.
Do people deal with stress in their own way?
Yes, different people deal with potentially stressful situations in different ways.
For example, if you’ve got to give a presentation in front of 100 people at work but aren’t confident speaking in front of a crowd, it’s natural to feel stressed out about it. However, if you’re confident in public speaking, you might actually be looking forward to it.
How you perceive the situation has a big impact on how you deal with it. You might not be very confident or you might have had negative experiences in the past. These things can impact on the way that you deal with stress. Your emotional resilience and how good you are under pressure can also affect the way you handle situations too.
As stress affects people differently, , it has many potential symptoms. The important thing to remember is that you don’t have to experience all of them to get a diagnosis from our doctors. Some people are only affected by one or two.
Some of the more common symptoms include:
- Being anxious
- Feeling over-burdened
- Racing thoughts
- A sense of dread
- Constant worrying
There may also be behavioural symptoms, including:
- Biting your nails
- Finding it hard to concentrate or make decisions
- Crying or feeling tearful
- Avoiding situations
There are physical symptoms too, including:
For a full list of stress symptoms, click here.
If you’re finding it hard to cope, our doctors can help you find a way to manage stress and stop it getting in the way of your life.
Our doctors will ask you questions about how you’re feeling and try to uncover what might be causing your stress. This is nothing to worry about - all your answers will be confidential between you and the doctor.
Your answers will help them find the best treatment for you, so it’s important that you answer each question fully and honestly.
For more information about what will happen during your consultation, you can read how we test for stress.
The list of possible causes for stress is very long. Depending on your circumstances, potentially anything can cause stress. The most common causes include:
- Problems at home
- School or university
- Significant life events, such as marriage or pregnancy
- Post-traumatic stress
As we’ve mentioned, stress happens in day-to-day life, so if you find you’re struggling to cope with it, it’s best to talk to a doctor, as they can help you manage it better.
Our doctors will speak to you to get a good understanding of how you’re feeling and use the information you give to recommend the best treatment for your stress.
Treatment may include:
- A talking therapy, such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
- A combination of the two
In order for it to be effective, your treatment will be tailored to you . This is why it helps our doctors to have as much information as possible. Find out more about how stress can be treated here.
Stress in pregnancy
It’s perfectly normal to feel stressed during pregnancy. It’s a huge life event and naturally you will want everything to go well.
However, if you are worried about your stress levels or want to know more about how stress can affect your pregnancy or your baby, our doctors are here to help. They will provide all the reassurance and advice you need.
For more information about stress in pregnancy, click here.
Managing stress with exercise
- Start slowly. Only gradually increase the amount and intensity at which you perform your chosen activity over time. Doing too much too soon could be a shock to the system resulting in injury, particularly if you are just starting out. For example, you may start with introducing bouts of 10-minute brisk walking into your day along with some light muscle strengthening activity.
- Do what you enjoy. If you pick something you enjoy, you are more likely to do it more often. Don’t be afraid to get creative and try new things.
- Plan some activities. Making plans may help you to stick to your exercise programme and make being active more of a priority. You may put a workout in your diary for lunchtime, or arrange a game of badminton with your friend one evening.
- Set goals. The SMART criteria may be a useful starting point for the creation of exercise goals – making them specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-limited.
- Find a partner. Having someone you can exercise with will help to keep your motivation and commitment high, plus most people find it more fun when they’re training alongside someone else.