What is stress?
Stress is a normal human response to pressure. We can feel stressed when faced with challenging and sometimes dangerous situations and this puts pressure on our ability to cope. The pressure is not only about what’s happening around us, but also about the demands we place on ourselves.
Stress is helpful when it increases our ability to be alert, energised, switched on and resourceful in facing challenges we enjoy or have to deal with.
Stress becomes unhelpful when it leaves us feeling fatigued, tense, anxious, burnt out, or overwhelmed. Everyone responds differently and the “tipping point” between helpful and unhelpful stress is different for each of us. It can also depend on what’s happening in our lives.
The causes of stress can be many and varied:
- Too many responsibilities – at work or at home
- Working or living with “difficult” people
- Illness – of yourself or a family member
- Lack of sleep
- Financial difficulties
- Competing worries and demands
- Facing change
- Being in danger, either physically or emotionally
Sometimes stress builds up and takes on a life of its own so that we feel anxious, even when not facing difficult situations. Stress is unhelpful when we:
- Can’t switch off – we feel alert and anxious even when we want to be resting
- Have difficulty eating or sleeping properly
- Have difficulty concentrating
- Can’t cope – even small things get us down, leave us exhausted
- Become irritable, anxious or depressed because the stress is “too much”
- Have aches and pains unrelated to exercise or any medical condition
- Withdraw from relationships, work, or fun activities
What can you do if you feel stressed?
If you think stress is taking its toll on you, counselling may help to reduce the anxiety and worry that stress can cause. It can also teach you better ways to manage and respond to stress, to lessen the harmful impacts on you and your body.