All sorts of situations can be stressful. The most common involve work, money matters and relationships with partners, children or other family members. Stress may be a response to major upheavals and life events such as divorce, unemployment, moving house and bereavement, or by a series of minor irritations such as feeling undervalued at work or dealing with difficult children. Sometimes there are no obvious causes.

Some stress can be positive. Research shows that a moderate level of stress improves performance. It also makes us more alert and can enhance performance in situations such as job interviews or public speaking. Stressful situations can also be exhilarating and some people actually thrive on the excitement that comes with dangerous sports or other high-risk activities.

But stress is only healthy if it is short-lived. Excessive, cumulative or prolonged stress can lead to illness and physical and emotional exhaustion. Taken to extremes, stress is a silent killer.

Symptoms of stress:

Physical Changes

  • Raised blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased perspiration

Emotional changes

  • Anxiety
  • Fear
  • Anger
  • Frustration
  • Depression

Behavioural changes – When you are stressed you may behave differently. For example, you may become:

  • Withdrawn
  • Indecisive
  • Inflexible
  • Not be able to sleep properly
  • Irritable
  • Tearful all the time
  • Verbally or physically aggressive

An important step in tackling stress is to realise that it is becoming a problem. You need to make the connection between feeling tired or ill with the pressures you are faced with. Do not ignore physical warnings such as tense muscles, over-tiredness, headaches or migraines.

It’s important to:

  • Learn to relax
  • Identify the causes
  • Make lifestyle changes

One of the best antidotes for stress is enjoying yourself, so try to bring some fun into your life by giving yourself well-earned treats and rewards for positive actions, attitudes and thoughts.

Even simple pleasures like a relaxing bath, a pleasant walk, or an interesting book can all help you deal with stress.

Try to keep things in proportion and don’t be too hard on yourself. After all, we all have bad days.