Everyone feels stressed sometimes. The demands of modern life are often taxing and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by them. Research has shown a little stress is good for people, motivating them and helping them to adapt to changing environments. But if you constantly feel drained and ‘stressed out’ then your stress could lead to physical and emotional problems.

Stress can come from almost any situation but amongst the most common likely to cause prolonged stress are money matters, work, health and relationships. Also stress is often caused by big life events such as moving house, the death of a loved one or unemployment.

When you’re stressed your body produces chemicals such as adrenaline which trigger the fight-or-flight response. This causes you to become alert and focus on the environment and helps to cope with dangers, emergencies and illness. While useful in the short-term by allowing you to escape or manage dangerous situations prolonged stress can put pressure on your body. Common effects of long-lasting stress include sleeping problems, loss of appetite, nausea and headaches. Emotional changes and feelings of anxiety or frustration can lead to spells of giddiness and heart palpitations. This in turn can cause you even more stress and can quickly become a vicious cycle. Stress can also lead to mental health issues such as depression or exhaustion and may affect your behaviour. You may become reclusive, withdrawn, stubborn or indecisive. People frequently turn to substances such as alcohol or drugs to help them cope with stress and personality changes such as loss of temper or being absent minded are common. If you are experiencing anything like this then it could be a warning sign that you are becoming dangerously stressed.

Fortunately stress is highly treatable. It’s easy to get help from a doctor and many find just sharing their problems with others helps. There’s numerous self-help resources available and a number of general tips you can use to help combat stress;

Learning how to cope with stress – The first step is realising that stress is causing you problems. Only then can you address the issues behind the stress. Review your life. Find out if you’re taking on too much and see if there’s anything you can delegate. Try to make a detailed plan so you can do things at a more leisurely pace. Think of practical solutions to problems and know the difference between things you can and can’t control. Try to keep smoking or drinking to a bare minimum. Although it may feel like they help you to relax they can often make things worse.
Sharing your problems – A strong support network is one of the best things you can have to combat stress. Having friends or family members who can help you through your problems can often reduce the pressure on you. Don’t let stress ruin your social life and if the stress is caused by your relationships then try to mend them.
Learning how to relax – Controlling how stress affects you is vital. Techniques like mediation, deep breathing and yoga can reduce the levels of daily stress and help you stay calm under pressure. And research has shown exercise and a balanced diet can help to protect against stress.

Anyone can be affected by stress and it’s estimated that of the 12 million adults who consult GP’s about mental health problems the majority of these are stress related. Some people are more prone to stress than others but as this is down to personality types it’s very hard to predict who can be more affected by stress.