The NHS defines stress as the feeling of being under too much mental or emotional pressure. This pressure can result in stress when you no longer feel able to cope, which can affect how you think feel and behave.

Symptoms of stress

Common signs of stress include sleeping problems, difficulty concentrating, sweating and loss of appetite. Stress can also cause you to feel anxious, irritable and/or negatively affect your self-esteem, causing you to excessively worry and overthink. Stress can even manifest itself in physical symptoms such as headaches, muscle tension, nausea or dizziness.

These symptoms are caused by the surge of hormones that stressful situations cause in the body. They are released when we face pressure or threats – often known as the ‘flight or fight’ response. Even though hormone levels return to normal after the threat has passed, if you are constantly under stress these hormones will stay in the body, leading to negative symptoms. However, by recognising the signs and triggers of stress early on, you will be able to figure out how to effectively manage it and stop it developing into a more serious condition.

Causes of stress

Everyone has different triggers for stress, but common causes include financial difficulties, bereavement, relationships, health worries, your jobs or unemployment. You may also suffer from stress after a traumatic event (post-traumatic stress disorder).

Treating stress

Once you have identified what is causing you stress it is important that you find healthy ways to deal with it. The unhealthiest thing you could do would be to turn to alcohol or smoking as a coping strategy. Instead, the NHS offer several ways that you can take control and effectively reduce or manage stress in your life.

Being active by taking regular exercise is one effective way to combat stress. While exercise won’t make your stress disappear, it is a good way to distract yourself from the emotional intensity you may be feeling and to clear your head.

Speaking to friends, family and colleagues is also important in reducing stress levels. A good support network can offer perspective on your problems and can also prove to be a great distraction from what is triggering your stress help you maintain a more positive outlook.

If you suffer from work related stress it may also help to manage and prioritise your time effectively. Concentrate on the tasks that will make a difference and leave your lest important tasks until last – accept that you will not be able to get everything done and that’s okay.

Breathing exercises and mindfulness techniques are also useful tools for combating stress. It is best to incorporate these into your daily routine at the same time each day for the best results. The NHS provide some useful tips for breathing deeply and regularly that are effective in helping you calm down.

Remember also to take some time out for yourself. People in the UK work the longest hours in Europe and often we don’t spend enough time relaxing or doing something we enjoy. Take at least one or two evenings out a week for some ‘me’ time and this will help reduce stress.

Taking control of you stress can also be one of the best ways to combat it. Often stressful situations can feel beyond your control, resulting in feelings of helplessness or inadequacy. By taking even small steps to combat this will reduce these feelings and bring a sense of control and stability back into your life.