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What is stress and what causes stress?


Stress is a healthy reaction that is meant to be uncomfortable. It is nature’s way of telling you that something is wrong and that you need to act to put it right..

It is not easy to pin down exactly what stress means. When we say things like “this is stressful’ or “I am stressed”, we might be talking about our reactions to being placed under pressure or situations or events that put pressure on us. We can learn to manage our stress better by managing external pressures and develop our emotional resilience. Being under pressure is a normal part of life. It can be a useful drive that helps you take action, feel more energized and get results. But if we become overwhelmed by stress, these feeling could start to be a problem for us. During stress the body releases lots of chemicals to alert us, with adrenalin and cortisol being two of most important ones. If stress persists and we produce high levels of these hormones, it can make us feel physically unwell and could affect our health in the longer term.

Common signs of stress are



Irritable, aggressive, impatient or wound up

Over burdened

Anxious, nervous or afraid

Neglected or lonely

Low mood


Loss of sense of humour



Finding it hard to make decisions


Snapping at people

Unable to concentrate

Eating too much or too little

Smoking or drinking alcohol more than usual


Feeling tearful



Shallow breathing

Panic attack

Problems getting to sleep

Tired all the time

Grinding teeth or clenching jaw


Chest pains

High blood pressure

Indigestion or heartburn

Feeling sick, dizzy or fainting


What causes Stress?


Feelings of stress are normally triggered by things happening in our lives which involve being under lots of pressure, facing big changes, worrying about something, not having much control over the outcome of a situation, having responsibilities that we find overwhelming and not having enough work, activities or changes in life.

There might be one big thing causing stress, but a build up of small challenges can also cause stress. This might make it harder for us to identify what’s making us feel stressed.

The amount of stress we feel in different situations can depend on our perception of the situation (this might be connected to our past experiences, our self-esteem, and how our thought process work). It may also depend on how skilled we are at dealing with pressure and our emotional resilience to stressful situation.