Stress is when you feel overwhelmed by things outside of your control. It’s not unusual to feel under pressure or overwhelmed if you’re in a difficult situation.
Sometimes, stress can drive positive change in your life. However, it can also have negative effects, particularly if you are finding it hard to cope.
Lots of things in life can cause stress. Big life changes are often stressful, even if they’re positive, like having a baby or planning a wedding.
Some of the common causes of stress include:
- Financial worries
- Relationship breakdown
- Problems at work or unemployment
- Moving homes or housing problems.1
Stress can affect you in many ways. It can affect you physically, emotionally, and mentally.
Some of the ways stress can affect you physically include:
- Muscle tension
- Heart palpitations
- Stomach problems, like pain or nausea (feeling sick)
- A lower sex drive or erectile dysfunction.
Emotional and mental difficulties caused by stress can include:
- Being irritable
- Struggling to fall asleep or sleeping too much
- Difficulty concentrating
- Losing your appetite or overeating
- Feeling overwhelmed.2
Many people feel stressed sometimes. But you may need treatment if you’re feeling stressed most of the time, or if your stress is significantly impacting your life.
Chronic stress is when you frequently feel stressed. It can have a big impact on your health and wellbeing. Your immune system, mental health and blood pressure can all be affected by long-term stress.3
If you need help managing stress, talking therapy like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) may help. This is a therapy that helps you learn to challenge unhealthy thinking patterns.
You can ask your GP to refer you for CBT.2 If you have complications from stress, like sleeping problems, stomach problems or anxiety, your GP may also be able to prescribe you medicines to manage those symptoms.
Counselling may also help you deal with stress. Counsellors are professionals who are trained to listen. It’s important to call 999 or go to A&E if you are in crisis or need support right now.
Lifestyle changes may help you reduce your stress levels. Talking to a supportive friend or family member about how you’re feeling can help you deal with your stress. It can also help to make time to do relaxing activities you enjoy.5
Taking care of your physical health can also improve your stress. Try to eat well, get enough sleep and do moderate exercise.4 Avoid drinking too much alcohol or smoking, as this can make your stress worse.2
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- Causes of stress. Accessed March 28, 2023. https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/stress/causes-of-stress/
- Get help with stress. nhs.uk. Published February 2, 2021. Accessed March 28, 2023. https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/feelings-symptoms-behaviours/feelings-and-symptoms/stress/
- Salleh MohdR. Life Event, Stress and Illness. Malays J Med Sci MJMS. 2008;15(4):9-18.
- Treatment for stress – Medication – Mind. Accessed March 29, 2023. https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/stress/treatment-for-stress/#medication
- Managing stress and building resilience - tips - Mind. Accessed March 28, 2023. https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/stress/managing-stress-and-building-resilience/
Reviewed by: Mital Thakrar
Review date: April 2023
Next review: April 2026