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.
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.
It's overwhelming. Sometimes you can't see beyond the thick fog of stress.
Why does stress affect me physically?
You might find that your first clues about being stressed are physical signs, like tiredness, headaches or an upset stomach.
This could be because when we feel stressed emotionally, our bodies release hormones called cortisol and adrenaline. This is the body’s automatic way of preparing to respond to a threat, and it can help you perform in emergency situations. But if you’re regularly producing high levels of these hormones, it can make you feel physically unwell and could affect your health in the longer term.
Is stress a mental health problem?
No, but it's closely linked to your mental health because 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. And if you experience a mental health problem, lots of everyday situations could become very stressful for you.
This information was published in July 2015. We will revise it in 2018.