What is stress?

Stress is the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressure or other types of demand placed on them.

What happens when we are stressed?

Adrenal glands produces adrenaline: This speeds up the heart and increases blood pressure.

Adrenal gland produces cortisol: This increases glucose in the blood and energy production. Over long periods of stress these reactions can cause illness and reduce life expectancy.

The pituitary gland produces oxytocin: This can reverse the effects of stress.

Stress affects people differently- what stresses one person may not affect another. Factors like skills and experience, age or disability may all affect whether someone can cope.

Causes of stress

  • Work
  • Relationships
  • Bereavement
  • Moving house
  • Finances
  • Poor physical health
  • Divorce
  • Bullying
  • Family and friends
  • Poor behaviour
  • Travel
  • Personal issues

How you may feel mentally and emotionally

  • Anxious
  • Angry
  • Distracted
  • Low self-esteem
  • Sad
  • Frustrated
  • Overwhelmed
  • Poor behaviour
  • Constant worrying

How you may feel physically

  • Headaches
  • Chest pain
  • Tiredness
  • Nausea
  • Muscle tension
  • Dizziness

Behavioural effects

  • Outbursts of anger
  • Under/overeating
  • Changes in sex drive
  • Restlessness
  • Social withdrawal
  • Exercising more than usual

The long term effects of stress include

  • Stress can lead to mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety and personality disorders
  • Cardiovascular problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke
  • Problems with your immune system, lower resistance to infection and skin conditions
  • Digestive problems such as appetite loss, vomiting and diarrhoea
  • Excessive changes in behaviour such as alcohol and substance abuse

Coping strategies for stress

  • Realise when stress is becoming a problem and identify the underlying issues
  • Build emotional strength and re-organise your lifestyle to tackle the causes
  • Eat a healthy diet, avoid skipping meals and try to adopt regular eating patterns
  • Make time for yourself to relax and socialise with friends and family
  • Set goals and challenges to help build your confidence
  • Avoid unhealthy habits such as smoking or drinking excessive alcohol
  • Help others in situations worse than yours to help put your own problems into perspective
  • Look for the positives in life and things for which you’re grateful, rather than the causes of your stress

Useful contacts

Samaritans – Provides confidential, non-judgemental emotional support for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair, including those that could lead to suicide
Call – 116 123 (24 hours a day, free to call) 
Email – jo@samaritans.org
Website – www.samaritans.org

Young Minds – The UK’s leading charity for children and young people’s mental health 
Website – www.youngminds.org.uk

Mind Infoline – Provides confidential mental health information services 
Call – 0300 123 3393 (9am-6pm Monday to Friday)
Text – 86463
Email – info@mind.org.uk
Website – www.mind.org/information-support/helplines 

CALM – Campaign Against Living Miserably, for ment aged 15 to 35
Website – www.thecalmzone.net
Call – 0800 58 58 58

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