What is stress?

Stress is the feeling of being under too much mental or emotional pressure. Everyone feels pressure at some time in their lives and we all have different ways of coping with stressful events. A healthy amount of pressure can help us stretch ourselves and achieve more than we think we are capable of. Prolonged pressure can turn into stress when you consistently feel that the demands on you are much bigger than your ability to cope.

Many of life’s demands can cause stress including: work pressures, relationships difficulties, money problems, bereavement, family worries and exams. Stress is a biological response to excessive pressure in which our bodies release hormones, mainly cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline to enable us to deal with perceived threats. This is sometimes described as the ‘fight or flight’ response. Once the threat has passed, these hormone levels usually return to normal. However, if you are constantly under stress and your body has no chance to return the levels of these hormones to normal, or to recover, this can lead to the physical and emotional symptoms of stress.

Who can get stress?

Anybody can get stress. About half a million people in the UK experience work-related stress at a level they believe is making them ill.

What are the symptoms of stress?

Stress can affect you physically and emotionally.

Physical symptoms can include:

  • Chest pains
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhoea
  • Cramps or muscle spasms
  • Dizziness
  • Biting your nails
  • Nervous twitches
  • Feeling restless
  • Tendency to sweat more
  • Sexual difficulties
  • Muscular aches
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Lack of appetite

Emotional symptoms can include:

  • Feeling angry, aggressive and irritable
  • Feeling depressed
  • Feeling anxious
  • Fearing you are ill
  • Dreading the future
  • Frequent crying
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Feeling tired
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Taking no interest in life and others

Managing stress – how you can help yourself

There is little you can do to prevent stress, but you can try to manage it more effectively by taking regular exercise, adopting good time management techniques and maintaining a balanced lifestyle. This is sometimes easier said than done. It helps to have a supportive network of people who can remind you when you lose a healthy perspective on life.

What can happen if stress is left untreated?

Stress is not an illness itself, but can lead to serious illness if it is not addressed. It is important to recognise the symptoms of stress early as this can help you to figure out ways of coping and to avoid unhealthy coping methods, such as drinking or smoking.
Spotting the early signs of stress will also help prevent developing potentially serious complications, such as high blood pressure (hypertension), anxiety and depression.

How can The Insight Network help?

The Insight Network is an established network of therapists who offer evidence-based therapies, such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)Cognitive Analytical Therapy (CAT) and Schema therapy to help resolve a range of issues including stress.

Therapy aims to help you manage your problems by changing how you think and act by finding practical ways to improve your state of mind and how you behave on a daily basis.

During your first appointment, a therapist will carry out a full assessment and put together an individual treatment plan detailing the goals and objectives that you want to achieve.  Therapy usually involves weekly sessions and depending on your situation and how you feel can last from six weeks to 18 weeks.

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