|Being under pressure is a normal part of life. It can help you take action, feel more energised and get results. But if you often become overwhelmed by stress, these feelings could start to be a problem for you.|
Feelings of stress are normally triggered by things happening in your life which involve:
- being under lots of pressure
- facing big changes
- worrying about something
- not having much or any control over the outcome of a situation
- having responsibilities that you're finding overwhelming
- not having enough work, activities or change in your life
- times of uncertainty.
There's no medical definition of stress, and healthcare professionals often disagree over whether stress is the cause of problems or the result of them. This can make it difficult for you to work out what causes your feelings of stress, or how to deal with them. But it's likely that you can learn to manage your stress better by:
You might find that your first clues about being stressed are physical signs, such as tiredness, headaches or an upset stomach. There could be many reasons for this, as when we feel stressed we often find it hard to sleep or eat well, and poor diet and lack of sleep can both affect our physical health. This in turn can make us feel more stressed emotionally.
Also, when we feel anxious, our bodies release hormones called cortisol and adrenaline. This is the body’s automatic way of preparing to respond to a threat, sometimes called the 'fight, flight or freeze' response. If you’re often stressed then you’re probably producing high levels of these hormones, which can make you feel physically unwell and could affect your health in the longer term.
We all experience stress differently in different situations. Sometimes you might be able to tell right away when you're feeling under stress, but other times you might keep going without recognising the signs. Stress can affect you both emotionally and physically, and it can affect the way you behave. You may feel:
- irritable, aggressive, impatient or wound up
- anxious, nervous or afraid
- like your thoughts are racing and you can't switch off
- unable to enjoy yourself
- uninterested in life
- like you've lost your sense of humour
- a sense of dread
- worried about your health
- neglected or lonely
You may be finding it hard to make decisions and constantly worrying; you might be avoiding situations that are troubling you or snapping at people. Being unable to concentrate, eating too much or too little, smoking or drinking alcohol more than usual and feeling restless, like you can't sit still can be indicators of stress.
You might be physically affected, for example you may experience shallow breathing or hyperventilating, you might have a panic attack, experience muscle tension or blurred eyesight or sore eyes. You may have problems getting to sleep, staying asleep or having nightmares and therefore feel tired all the time.
There are various steps you can take to cope with being under pressure. Here are some tips that you may find useful, but it’s important to remember that different things work for different people. Only try what you feel comfortable with. For example:
Identify your triggers
Working out what triggers stress for you can help you anticipate problems and think of ways to solve them. Even if you can't avoid these situations, being prepared can help. Take some time to reflect on events and feelings that could be contributing to your stress (you could do this on your own or with someone you trust).
Organise your time
Making some adjustments to the way you organise your time could help you feel more in control of any tasks you're facing, and more able to handle pressure.
Address some of the causes
Although there will probably lots of things in your life that you can't do anything about, there might still be some practical ways you could to resolve or improve some of the issues that are putting pressure on you. You might find it helpful to read our information on:
Accept the things you can't change
It's not easy, but accepting that there are some things happening to you that you probably can't do anything about will help you focus your time and energy more productively. Stress isn't a medical diagnosis, so there's no specific treatment for it. However, if you're finding it very hard to cope with things going on in your life and are experiencing lots of signs of stress, there are treatments available that could help. These include: talking treatments; medication; ecotherapy; complementary and alternative therapies
To access most treatments, the first step is usually to talk to your GP. Refer to Mind’s pages on seeking help for a mental health problem for tips on how to talk to your doctor about your mental health.
Tuesday 5th November 2019