Stress is a common human experience and, most of us will experience stress from time to time. Stress often describes people’s emotional experience when they are unable to cope with the demands placed upon them. More specifically it refers to the body reactions as well as the psychological reaction to a perceived or real threat or demand, for example loss of a relationship, financial difficulties, family issues, etc.

When we experience a perceived or real threat, our body goes into a ‘fight or flight’ response, where our brain releases stress hormones to prepare us to act to protect ourselves from the threat/danger. This automatic bodily response can be triggered when we feel under extreme pressure and can impact on our ability to distinguish between daily stressors or life-threatening events. This is turn can result in inability to manage stress effectively.

Some common stress symptoms include:

Physiological stress symptoms

  • Chest pain
  • Digestive and bowel problems
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Muscle tension or pain
  • Palpitations
  • Sexual issues

Emotional stress symptoms

  • Constant worry
  • Indecisiveness
  • Irritability or short temper
  • Feeling anxious and overwhelmed
  • Low self-worth
  • Moodiness
  • Difficulties in concentration and memory

Behavioural stress symptoms:

  • Compulsive habits (e.g., pacing, leg shaking, tapping/fidgeting fingers, nail biting, touching hair/ears)
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Excessive drinking/smoking/drug usage to seek comfort
  • Isolation and Withdrawal from social activities
  • Poor appetite or overeating
  • Procrastination

When to seek help

Prolonged stress can have a significant impact on your physical and psychological health, leading to serious illness as well as anxiety and depression and other mental health issues. If you suffer from increased stress therapy or counselling can be helpful.

Dr Maria Pournara, Chartered Psychologist, has extensive experience in stress management and offers therapy/ counselling for stress online.