Mental Health Helpline For Wales

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About Stress


  1. What is stress?
  2. Signs of stress
  3. Some common illnesses made worse by stress
  4. Page 2: Stress Self Help

What is stress?

We become stressed when the demands made of us exceed our ability to quickly return to our usual state. Stress pushes us too far from our usual state of balance.

Stress can be sudden and extreme or it can be prolonged over many months or years. Both types of stress can cause changes in the way the body works and alter the way we think and feel.

Many of these changes are the result of 'stress hormones' such as cortisol and adrenaline, both of which help prepare the body for action. These hormones are responsible for some of the unpleasant feelings we have when stressed.

Signs of stress

We're all different when it comes to stress. Something that stresses one person out may feel exhilarating to another. This has a lot to do with our temperament and how we think about stress.

A little stress can be a good thing, pushing us to do our best. This positive stress is called 'eustress'. A little stress can make us stronger, faster and more focused.

Figure 1

Too much stress or stress that goes on for too long can be overwhelming, it reduces our ability to 'bounce back' and return to our usual balanced state.

Too much stress reduces our immunity to illness and can lead to mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression.

The effects of stress can add up over time and it often takes us longer to get over stress as we get older. As if feeling stressed wasn't bad enough, stress can make us more susceptible to other illnesses.

Some common illnesses made worse by stress

  • Asthma
  • Eczema
  • Chronic pain
  • Irritable Bowel (IBS)
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat
  • Headaches
  • High blood pressure