Everyone experiences stress at some point in their life. It is the body’s natural reaction when the demands placed upon the system are greater than usual, preparing your body to fight or flee. However, the causes of stress can be either good or bad.

Stress affects everyone in different ways. Prolonged or particularly high levels of stress can lead to people becoming sick, overly tired and being easily distracted. Stress can also lead to mental health problems and can worsen the symptoms of existing problems. This is where professional support can make all the difference.

Everyone experiences stress in different ways. It can affect both the way you feel physically and the way you behave:


  • Rapid heartbeat and breathing
  • Sweating
  • Clammy hands, feet and skin
  • Butterflies in your stomach
  • Tension in your muscles
  • Increase in the number of times you go to the toilet
  • Dry mouth
  • Muscle spasms, headaches, fatigue, shortness of breath


  • Difficulty in making decisions
  • Avoidance
  • Snapping at people
  • Biting you nails/picking your skin
  • Concentration difficulties
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Smoking or drinking
  • Restlessness
  • Being tearful
  • Lack of enjoyment in activities

Causes of stress

The causes of stress can be hard to identify, it may be one big challenge or many small ones. The amount of stress we feel is related to how we perceive the situation, how we deal with pressure and how emotionally resilient we are to stressful situations. Everyone is unique and so what causes one person high levels of stress may not affect another. The first step in dealing with stress is to identify the cause.

Some events which commonly cause high levels of stress are:

  • Physical health problems
  • Pregnancy
  • Bereavement
  • Going away
  • Getting married
  • Break-ups/divorces
  • Relationship problems
  • Caring for another person
  • Losing your job
  • Unemployment
  • Retirement
  • Exams
  • Deadlines
  • Beginning a new job
  • Moving house
  • Problems with neighbours
  • Worries about money
  • Poverty
  • Debt
  • Public speaking
  • Interviews
  • Increased demands at home
  • Increased demands at work


If you can’t easily make changes in your life to deal with the source of stress and it starts to adversely affect your mood, work, relationships or social life it’s a good idea to seek professional help. It won’t make the source of stress go away but it will help you to find solutions, manage the stress and feel more in control. Some of the approaches which can help in the management of stress are:

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) –CBT is a therapy which assumes that a person’s mood is related to their patterns of thought. These thoughts then continue to affect a person’s mood, behaviour and physical state. CBT aims to stop the negative cycles of thought which cause you to feel low, therefore improving mood and leading to more positive behaviours.

Mindfulness – Mindfulness is a practice which has Buddhist origins and has been around for thousands of years. It is state which is achieved by focusing in on the here and now, acknowledging thoughts, feelings and sensations but not attempting to get rid of them or judge them. In this case there would be a particular focus on stress reduction.

Counselling and Psychotherapy – There are different types of psychotherapy available. Psychotherapy aims to help you to understand your personal needs and how to improve your future wellbeing.


Self-help techniques can be a good place to start in the management of stress. Take a step back and try to identify what it is that is causing your stress – this can be done using a stress diary detailing when you feel stressed, where you were, what you were doing and who you were with. Then you can think about how you were feeling, what you were thinking and a rating of 1-10 of how stressed you felt. From here you can begin to evaluate what is making you feel stressed and what you can do about it.

  • You may find that you need to reduce the demands that you place upon yourself. Make time for yourself to do the things that you most enjoy and things that are priorities, such as sleep, eating, exercise and family.
  • Manage time more effectively – break down big tasks into smaller parts then list these in order of importance and deal with the most important task first.
  • Increase your coping strategies – this can include relaxation techniques which you can use as soon as you begin to feel stressed. Relaxation techniques can include exercise, listening to music, watch TV, read a book or meditation.
  • More techniques are available here: