Stress can be defined as the degree to which you feel overwhelmed or unable to cope as a result of pressures that are unmanageable.
What is stress?
At the most basic level, stress is our body’s response to pressures from a situation or life event. What contributes to stress can vary hugely from person to person and differs according to our social and economic circumstances, the environment we live in and our genetic makeup. Some common features of things that can make us feel stress include experiencing something new or unexpected, something that threatens your feeling of self, or feeling you have little control over a situation.1
When we encounter stress, our body is stimulated to produce stress hormones that trigger a ‘flight or fight’ response and activate our immune system 2. This response helps us to respond quickly to dangerous situations.
Sometimes, this stress response can be an appropriate, or even beneficial reaction. The resulting feeling of ‘pressure’ can help us to push through situations that can be nerve-wracking or intense, like running a marathon, or giving a speech to a large crowd. We can quickly return to a resting state without any negative effects on our health if what is stressing us is short-lived 3, and many people are able to deal with a certain level of stress without any lasting effects.
However, there can be times when stress becomes excessive and too much to deal with. If our stress response is activated repeatedly, or it persists over time, the effects can result in wear and tear on the body and can cause us to feel permanently in a state of ‘fight or flight’ . Rather than helping us push through, this pressure can make us feel overwhelmed or unable to cope.
Feeling this overwhelming stress for a long period of time is often called chronic, or long-term stress, and it can impact on both physical and mental health.
Stress is a response to a threat in a situation, whereas anxiety is a reaction to the stress.
What makes us stressed?
There are many things that can lead to stress. The death of a loved one, divorce/separation, losing a job and unexpected money problems are among the top ten causes of stress according to one recent survey 5. But not all life events are negative and even positive life changes, such as moving to a bigger house, gaining a job promotion or going on holiday can be sources of stress.
What are the signs of stress?
When you are stressed you may experience many different feelings, including anxiety, fear, anger, sadness, or frustration. These feelings can sometimes feed on each other and produce physical symptoms, making you feel even worse. For some people, stressful life events can contribute to symptoms of depression.6 7
Work-related stress can also have negative impacts on mental health 8. Work-related stress accounts for an average of 23.9 days of work lost for every person affected 9.
When you are stressed you may behave differently. For example, you may become withdrawn, indecisive or inflexible. You may not be able to sleep properly 10. You may be irritable or tearful. There may be a change in your sexual habits 11.Some people may resort to smoking, consuming more alcohol, or taking drugs 12. Stress can make you feel angrier or more aggressive than normal 13. Stress may also affect the way we interact with our close family and friends.
When stressed, some people start to experience headaches, nausea and indigestion. You may breathe more quickly, perspire more, have palpitations or suffer from various aches and pains. You will quickly return to normal without any negative effects if what is stressing you is short-lived, and many people are able to deal with a certain level of stress without any lasting adverse effects.
If you experience stress repeatedly over a prolonged period, you may notice your sleep and memory are affected, your eating habits may change, or you may feel less inclined to exercise.
Some research has also linked long-term stress to gastrointestinal conditions like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), or stomach ulcers14 as well as conditions like cardiovascular disease15.
Who is affected by stress?
All of us can probably recognise at least some of the feelings described above and may have felt stressed and overwhelmed at some time or another. Some people seem to be more affected by stress than others. For some people, getting out of the door on time each morning can be a very stressful experience. Whereas others may be able to cope with a great deal of pressure.
Some groups of people may be more likely to experience stressful life events and situations than others. For example, people living with high levels of debt, or financial insecurity are more likely to experience stress related to money16, 17, people from minority ethnic groups or whose who are LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) may be more likely to experience stress due to prejudice, or discrimination18,19,20, and people with pre-existing or ongoing health problems may be more likely to experience stress related to their health, or stress due to stigma associated with their condition.
How can you help yourself?
There are some actions that you can take as an individual to manage the immediate, sometimes unpleasant, signs of stress and identify, reduce, and remove stressful factors that may cause you to feel overwhelmed and unable to cope. If you feel comfortable, talking to a friend or close colleague at work about your feelings can help you manage your stress.
However, sometimes individual actions on their own are not enough to reduce long-term stress for everyone. We can often be affected by factors that are beyond our direct control. Communities, workplaces, societies, and governments all have a role to play in tackling these wider causes of stress.
1. Realise when it is causing a problem and identify the causes
An important step in tackling stress is to realise when it is a problem for you and make a connection between the physical and emotional signs you are experiencing and the pressures you are faced with. It is important not to ignore physical warning signs such as tense muscles, feeling over-tired, and experiencing headaches or migraines.
Once you have recognised you are experiencing stress, try to identify the underlying causes. Sort the possible reasons for your stress into those with a practical solution, those that will get better anyway given time, and those you can’t do anything about. Take control by taking small steps towards the things you can improve.
Think about a plan to address the things that you can. This might involve setting yourself realistic expectations and prioritising essential commitments. If you feel overwhelmed, ask people to help with the tasks you have to do and say no to things that you cannot take on.
2. Review your lifestyle
Are you taking on too much? Are there things you are doing which could be handed over to someone else? Can you do things in a more leisurely way? You may need to prioritise things you are trying to achieve and reorganise your life so that you are not trying to do everything at once.
3. Build supportive relationships
Finding close friends or family who can offer help and practical advice can support you in managing stress. Joining a club, enrolling on a course, or volunteering can all be good ways of expanding your social networks and encourage you to do something different. Equally, activities like volunteering can change your perspective and helping others can have a beneficial impact on your mood.
4. Eat Healthily
A healthy diet will reduce the risk of diet-related diseases. There is also a growing amount of evidence showing how food can affect our mood. Feelings of wellbeing can be protected by ensuring our diet provides adequate amounts of nutrients including essential vitamins and minerals, as well as water.
5. Be aware of your smoking and drinking
If possible, try to cut right down on smoking and drinking. They may seem to reduce tension, but in fact they can make problems worse. Alcohol and caffeine can increase feelings of anxiety.
Physical exercise can be an excellent initial approach to managing the effects of stress. Walking, and other physical activities can provide a natural ‘mood boost’ through the production of endorphins. Even a little bit of physical activity can make a difference, for example, walking for 15-20 minutes three times a week is a great start.21
7. Take Time Out
One of the ways you can reduce stress is by taking time to relax and practicing self-care, where you do positive things for yourself. Striking a balance between responsibility to others and responsibility to yourself is vital in reducing stress levels.
8. Be Mindful
Mindfulness meditation can be practiced anywhere at any time. Research has suggested it can be helpful for managing and reducing the effect of stress, anxiety, and other related problems in some people22. Our ‘Be Mindful’ website features a specifically-developed online course in mindfulness, and details of local courses in your area.
9. Get some restful sleep
Sleep problems are common when you’re experiencing stress. If you are having difficulty sleeping, you can try to reduce the amount of caffeine you consume23 and avoid too much screen time before bed24. Writing down your to do list for the next day can be useful in helping you prioritise but also put the plans aside before bed25. For more tips on getting a good night’s sleep read our guide ‘How to sleep better’.
10. Don’t be too hard on yourself
Try to keep things in perspective and don’t be too hard on yourself. Look for things in your life that are positive and write down things that make you feel grateful.
If you continue to feel overwhelmed by stress, seeking professional help can support you in managing effectively. Do not be afraid to seek professional help if you feel that you are no longer able to manage things on your own. Many people feel reluctant to seek help as they feel that it is an admission of failure. This is not the case and it is important to get help as soon as possible so you can begin to feel better.
The first person to approach is your family doctor. He or she should be able to advise about treatment and may refer you to another local professional. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) has been shown to be helpful in reducing stress by changing the ways we think about stressful situations26, this might include focusing on more positive aspects of a situation and reassessing what their likely impact might be. Other psychosocial interventions that can be helpful include brief interpersonal counselling, which can give people the opportunity to discuss what causes them to feel stress and develop coping strategies; and mindfulness-based approaches27.
What are the biggest causes of Christmas stress?
The following report I have to admit was pinched from the Internet (for all my Sins).
Good food, gifts, and spending time with our loved ones — these are just some of the ingredients that make Christmas the “most wonderful time of the year.” But it is not without its stresses; a new poll reveals the factors that are most likely to help and hinder our mental well-being this festive season.
We love Christmas here at Medical News Today. For the past 4 weeks, the office has been full of excitable chatter about festive plans, and, more importantly, Michael Bublé’s Christmas album has been dominating the speaker.
When I asked my colleagues what they love most about the festive season, there was a common theme: spending time with family.
And it seems that this is a common theme beyond the scope of the MNT office. In a new poll from the United Kingdom’s Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH), 84 percent of 2,000 respondents said that spending time with family improved their mental well-being at Christmas.
Conversely, it’s our family that seems to be the biggest source of Christmas stress, with 76 percent of respondents reporting that family arguments have the worst impact on their mental well-being during the festive season.
Sickness and hangovers
You’ve made lots of plans for the festive season — from the office party to your family get-together. Then it strikes: the dreaded flu. It’s no wonder that getting sick comes in as the second biggest stressor at Christmas, according to the RSPH poll.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that December has been the peak month for flu activity for seven seasons between 1982–1983 and 2015–2016.
This December has already seen flu activity at levels above the national baseline, so many of us will be waving goodbye to our festive celebrations in favor of our bed and a cup of hot lemon and honey.
However, if you’re thinking about having some alcohol to ease your sore throat, make sure not to drink too much; having a hangover is the third most common burden on mental well-being at Christmas.
What a night and day
It all started last night when we discovered the condensation pipe had came away from the boiler (which is in our wardrobe).
This meant clothes and the inside of wardrobe was soaking wet with water. Fortunately it although carpet was wet it never came through floor.
An emergency plumber was called and he re connected the pipe.
This morning we tried starting boiler to dry wardrobe out but it wouldn’t start. Another engineer came out and it turned out the condensation pipe was blocked and timer was set to wrong time.
How to manage stress
Explains what stress is, what might cause it and how it can affect you. Includes information about ways you can help yourself and how to get support.
What is stress?
We all know what it’s like to feel stressed, but it’s not easy to pin down exactly what stress means. When we say things like “this is stressful” or “I’m stressed”, we might be talking about:
- Situations or events that put pressure on us – for example, times where we have lots to do and think about, or don’t have much control over what happens.
- Our reaction to being placed under pressure – the feelings we get when we have demands placed on us that we find difficult to cope with.
“It’s overwhelming. Sometimes you can’t see beyond the thick fog of stress.”
There’s no medical definition of stress, and health care professionals often disagree over whether stress is the cause of problems or the result of them. This can make it difficult for you to work out what causes your feelings of stress, or how to deal with them. But whatever your personal definition of stress is, it’s likely that you can learn to manage your stress better by:
- managing external pressures, so stressful situations don’t seem to happen to you quite so often
- developing your emotional resilience, so you’re better at coping with tough situations when they do happen and don’t feel quite so stressed
Is stress a mental health problem?
Being under pressure is a normal part of life. It can help you take action, feel more energised and get results. But if you often become overwhelmed by stress, these feelings could start to be a problem for you.
Stress isn’t a psychiatric diagnosis, but it’s closely linked to your mental health in two important ways:
- Stress can cause mental health problems, and make existing problems worse. For example, if you often struggle to manage feelings of stress, you might develop a mental health problem like anxiety or depression.
- Mental health problems can cause stress. You might find coping with the day-to-day symptoms of your mental health problem, as well as potentially needing to manage medication, heath care appointments or treatments, can become extra sources of stress.
This can start to feel like a vicious circle, and it might be hard to see where stress ends and your mental health problem begins.
“[When I’m stressed] I feel like I’m on the verge of a breakdown.”
Why does stress affect me physically?
You might find that your first clues about being stressed are physical signs, such as tiredness, headaches or an upset stomach.
There could be many reasons for this, as when we feel stressed we often find it hard to sleep or eat well, and poor diet and lack of sleep can both affect our physical health. This in turn can make us feel more stressed emotionally.
Also, when we feel anxious, our bodies release hormones called cortisol and adrenaline. (This is the body’s automatic way of preparing to respond to a threat, sometimes called the ‘fight, flight or freeze’ response). If you’re often stressed then you’re probably producing high levels of these hormones, which can make you feel physically unwell and could affect your health in the longer term.
Schizophrenia is a diagnosis given to some people who have severely disrupted beliefs and experiences.
During an episode of schizophrenia, a person’s understanding and interpretation of the outside world is disrupted – they may:
- lose touch with reality
- see or hear things that are not there
- hold irrational or unfounded beliefs
- appear to act strangely because they are responding to these delusions and hallucinations.
An episode of schizophrenia can last for several weeks and can be very frightening. About one in 100 people will have one episode of schizophrenia, and two thirds of these will go on to have further episodes. Schizophrenia usually starts in the late teens or early 20s, but can also affect older people for the first time.
The causes are unknown but episodes of schizophrenia appear to be associated with changes in some brain chemicals. Stressful experiences and some recreational drugs can also trigger an episode in vulnerable people.At least 26 million people are living with schizophrenia worldwide according to the World Health Organization, and many more are indirectly affected by it.
Doctors describe two groups of symptoms in people with schizophrenia: positive and negative. Although the positive symptoms are often the most dramatic and, at least initially, the most distressing, the negative ones tend to cause the most problems, as they tend to be longer lasting.
The three main positive symptoms are:
- feelings of being controlled by outside forces (ie. having one’s thoughts and actions taken over)
- hearing, seeing, smelling or feeling things which are not there (hallucinations)
- irrational and unfounded beliefs (delusions).
The delusions can often be very frightening – the person may believe that others are plotting to kill them or that their conversations are being recorded. Positive symptoms all tend to occur during acute episodes and can be particularly frightening.
The negative symptoms include tiredness, loss of concentration, and lack of energy and motivation, which may be exacerbated by the side-effects of drugs used to treat the positive symptoms. Because of these symptoms, people with schizophrenia are often unable to cope with everyday tasks, such as work and household chores. Suicide and self-harm are common in people with a diagnosis of schizophrenia: around one in 10 take their own life.
Misconceptions about schizophrenia
There is more media misinformation about schizophrenia than about any other type of mental health problem. A diagnosis of schizophrenia does not mean ‘split personality’, or indicate that someone will be calm one minute and then be ‘out of control’ the next.
Sensational stories in the media tend to present people with schizophrenia as dangerous, even though most people diagnosed with schizophrenia don’t commit violent crimes. Another misconception is that people who hear voices are dangerous, but actually voices are more likely to suggest that you harm yourself than someone else and people have a choice in whether they do what the voices say.
Most people with schizophrenia are prescribed drugs to reduce the positive symptoms. The drugs may be prescribed for long periods and may have unpleasant side effects.
Some people need a great deal of help in managing the symptoms of schizophrenia. Others find ways to cope with experiences such as hearing voices and do not necessarily wish to receive any treatment.
Sometimes, people in an acute phase of the illness may need to be admitted to hospital under the Mental Health Act for their own, or other people’s, safety. People with schizophrenia are not usually dangerous to other people; they are more at risk of harm from others, or themselves.
Many people who are at risk of relapse carry Crisis Cards or have written up Advance Directives stating how they would like to be treated and what they do and do not find helpful. Mental health professionals do not have to follow these instructions, but it is considered good practice to take the person’s wishes into account.
If you, or someone you care for, are experiencing the symptoms of schizophrenia you may wish to contact your GP who can prescribe drug treatments and refer you for psychiatric help. You may also be referred to social services and the local community mental health team who can support you at home.
If you need urgent support or you feel like harming or hurting yourself or anyone else, call 999 or go to the nearest hospital accident and emergency department.
If your need is less urgent, you can contact the NHS Direct helpline on 111, which is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. They can also provide information about your nearest A&E and other support services.
A major health inequality is that people with a diagnosis of schizophrenia die, on average, 20 years younger than the general population – this is unacceptable. Poor physical health can arise as a side effect of anti-psychotic medication – for example through weight gain and increased risk of developing diabetes. Poor physical health can also result because of a failure to monitor risk factors. We want GPs to carry out regular health checks for all people with severe mental health problems.
Self-management of schizophrenia
Through self-management, many service users gain confidence, skills and knowledge to better manage their mental health and gain more control of their lives at a time when they may feel they have lost control. The Foundation is developing, delivering and evaluating a range of self-management interventions for people with severe psychiatric diagnoses in Wales including schizophrenia.
Hi Folks today I’m here to give you an update on my seizures.
First of all let me say this is the first seizure of any kind in one week short of two months.
From my point of view given that my last seizure was on twenty eight of July when I had the petite mal seizure at 11.30am approximately, it came unexpectedly.
At first everything seemed ok after the seizure, until about 10 minutes later I got a what I call (embarrassing side effect) in the form of a bowel movement. Embarrassing in the sense that if you are in a public place and don’t know where the toilets are.
I usually have an idea what triggers my seizures, mostly it’s stress related, but this time I haven’t a clue what triggered it.
My seizures have been known to be more frequent, in fact I noticed during the first lockdown from Covid – 19 I was less stressed and if I remember right no seizures and that is still the case today.
So I reckon what was causing the increase in seizures was something I had to stop doing during Covid -19.
Recently there has been quite a bit of stress in our house due to the fact our satellite system hasn’t been working properly.
The engineer was out last week changed both the satellite box and hub for new ones in the hope that the issue was solved.
Well the issue of getting the satellite box to connect to hub was, but other issues raised it’s ugly head
Either we lost the picture or it froze and turned a pinkish colour and we were unable to turn off the system unless we unplugged it from wall.
On Saturday we were on the phone to our provider about four or five times. Still these issues haven’t been resolved.
I am no expert but I think the new satellite box the engineer installed may be faulty as well.
I have to say though I cannot fault the engineer that came out to us or the support team on the phone they tried as best they could to resolve the issues.
Epilepsy & Bullying
Stigma and bullying
Stigma and bullying is common in epilepsy, often due to widespread misunderstanding about the condition. It can lead to the young person having low self-esteem and a reduction in motivation to engage with school learning and activities. The attitudes of their school, family and friends play an important role in the young person’s overall school experience and their wellbeing.
Many young people with epilepsy say they have encountered nastiness because of their condition. This can have a devastating impact on childhood, with many young people avoiding going to places where they might be the victim of ill-treatment.
Raising awareness of the basic facts about epilepsy will help to improve confidence, tolerance and inclusion as well as dispel unhelpful myths. Awareness raising should involve both pupils and school staff and can be done in a variety of ways, including:
- Holding assemblies and lessons
- Being alert to bullying
- Developing ‘epilepsy-aware’ peer group
- Arranging staff training
Schools need to ensure that awareness raising is handled sensitively and with the young person’s (and their parents’) support. Parents, charities and other outside agencies could contribute to the awareness raising activities.
Bullying is an additional stress to young people with epilepsy and stress is a common trigger for seizures. While many schools work hard to eliminate bullying, young people with epilepsy need to be recognised as particularly vulnerable.
Epilepsy – Embarrassing side effects
At least up until last October that’s what I called it
What is this side effect as I call it and please drop a note in the comments if anyone with epilepsy or othr type of seizures suffer from it? Well every so often mainly after a Focal seizure and after the occasional absence seizure I would have to run to nearest toilet because It triggered of not diohrea but a ” loose bowel movement”
When I suffered from it, it could happen at the most inconvenient times, such as when out in public.
It had me at a point where if I entered a public building the first thing I would look for was the toilet just incase I had one of these seizures
Having said that we in the UK have been under lockdown restrictions since late last year. I because of the guidelines have not been able to do any of the things I did before Covid – 19 therefore I haven’t been under any stress that I would normally wouldbe under if Covid – 19 did not happen.
Personally I am hoping and praying that the dreaded and incovenient side effect does not come back.