Being under pressure is a normal part of life. It can help you take action, feel more energised and get results. But sometimes pressure can become a problem and you can end up feeling “stressed”.

There are many things in life that can cause stress, including work, relationships, family issues and financial problems. As individuals, we all react differently, and so what one person might cope with fairly easily might be very stressful for someone else.

Stress may be caused by specific “events” such as getting married, moving house; having a baby, serious illness or bereavement. Or, stress could be the result of ongoing situations like being unemployed, having financial issues, relationship difficulties, caring for a disabled family member/friend or problems at work.

Most stressful situations are associated with change or a lack of control. Even if the change is a positive one, it can still feel stressful. Sometimes you might be able to tell right away when you’re feeling under stress, but other times you might keep going without recognising the signs.

What are the signs of stress?

Stress can affect you both emotionally and physically, and it can affect the way you behave.

  • Emotionally you might feel one or more of the following: irritable, aggressive, impatient, wound up, over-burdened, anxious, nervous, afraid, lacking in humour.
  • Stress might affect you physically, for example: shallow breathing or hyperventilating; feeling tired all the time; headaches; high blood pressure; indigestion or heartburn; feeling sick, dizzy or fainting; problems getting to sleep, staying asleep or having nightmares; sexual problems, such as losing interest in sex or being unable to enjoy sex; “panic attacks”.
  • In terms of behaviour, you might notice that you: find it hard to make decisions; worry constantly; avoid situations that are troubling you; snap at people; have difficulty concentrating; are restless; are tearful or crying; eat too much or too little; smoke or drink alcohol more than usual.

For more information about the signs of stress, see the MIND website.

If you recognise that you’re feeling stressed, you may want to look at ways of dealing with or reducing external pressures and also building up your emotional resilience, so you’re better at coping with tough situations when they do happen. Counselling can help with both of these.

When should I seek help for stress?

As stress is often viewed as simply a “part of life”, it can be difficult to know when outside support is needed. As a guide, it’s a good idea to seek help if:

  • stress (and the effects of stress) dominate your life
  • stress is affecting your physical health
  • you’re using unhealthy coping methods to deal with stress
  • you’re experiencing angry outbursts that are affecting those around you.

Stress tends to feed on itself, and over time lowers your ability to cope. So the sooner you seek help for stress, the better.

Talking with a professional about the difficulties you’re experiencing can help you understand any underlying issues that may be causing your stress. Working with one of us, you’ll be able to identify your personal stress triggers and find ways of coping with them.

Our therapists have a range of skills and specialities – please read each of our profiles to find out more.