What is Stress?

Stress is a normal part of life and can even serve a useful purpose such as motivating you to get that promotion at work. However, if you don’t get a handle on your stress and it becomes long-term, it may seriously interfere with your job, family life, and health.  

Everyone has different stress triggers. According to surveys, work stress tops the list. In my experience as a clinician, the main life stressors for clients have been related to family and work life, mainly balancing professional and personal expectations between the workplace and home.  

No one is perfect. If you expect to do everything right all the time, you’re likely to feel stressed when things don’t go as expected. 

Any major life change can be stressful – even a happy event like a wedding or a job promotion. More unpleasant events, such as divorce, major financial setback, or death in the family can also be significant sources of stress.

If you’ve been stressed out for a short period of time, you may start to notice some of these physical signs or behaviours:

  • Headache 
  • Difficulty Seeping or Concentrating 
  • Fatigue 
  • Increased Irritability 
  • Digestive System Issues 
  • Frequent Crying 
  • Food Cravings & Eating Too Much or Too Little 
  • Sudden Angry Outbursts 
  • Drug and Alcohol Misuse 
  • Higher Tobacco Consumption 
  • Social Withdrawal 
  • Relationship Problems

There are some lifestyle changes which might help with stress management, such as:

  • Exercise
    Science shows that exercise is effective in stress relief as it as it releases endorphins and improves physical and mental wellbeing. Even a short 10 minute walk can be effective in decreasing feelings of stress.
  • Reducing the intake of alcohol, drugs, and caffeine
    These substances are not a solution to reducing stress. They may increase the feelings of stress over time and may also cause other mental or physical health problems.
  • Be Mindful of Diet
    Consuming a healthy and balanced diet can increase physical health which in turn, can increase your mental wellbeing. What we consume plays a significant role in how we feel on the inside.
  • Take Time Out
    It’s important to take time out for yourself and do things that make you enjoy and make you feel relaxed. It’s also good to take time out to organise your schedule and pursue your interests.
  • Mindfulness Meditation
    Mindfulness meditation is a great way to bring yourself back to the present moment, slow things down, focus and relax. If you would like to learn more about mindfulness, we have a post on our blog! Click here to read our mindfulness blog post.
  • Talking Treatments
    Talking with a mental health professional can help you learn to manage your stress and become more aware of your own thoughts and feelings. Alternatively, a good chat with a good friend can be helpful.


There’s a fine line between stress and anxiety. They are both emotional responses, but stress is usually caused by an external trigger. The trigger might be short-term, such as a work deadline or a fight with a loved one or it might be long-term, being unable to work, discrimination, or chronic illness. The mental and physical symptoms of stress can be irritability, anger, fatigue, muscle pain, digestive troubles, and difficulty sleeping. 

Typically, good stress or what psychologists refer to as “eustress” is the type of stress we feel when we are excited. Our pulse quickens and hormones surge, but there is no threat or fear. This type of stress can be felt when riding a roller coaster, competing for a promotion, or on a first date. There are many triggers for this good stress, and it keeps us feeling alive and excited about life. 

Anxiety is generally defined by persistent, excessive worries that don’t abate even in the absence of a stressor. Anxiety leads to very similar symptoms as stress: insomnia, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, muscle tension, and irritability.  

A certain amount of anxiety is useful – even indispensable. If you understand that it is a signal of impending danger, you can grasp its vital importance. When facing a big decision like buying a house or a car, or choosing an investment, it makes sense to expect some anxiety. It can be helpful, to alert your mind to the risk and provide the extra mental charge to think through your choices. 

If anxiety is left untreated it can last for a long time and become exhausting, debilitating and get in the way of our everyday lives. There are three broad effective treatments for anxiety which are: psychological treatments (talking therapies), physical treatments (medications) and self-help and alternative therapies.  

Long term coping strategies for stress and anxiety can be:

  • Keep a thought journal and challenge negative cognitions
  • Identify your triggers with a psychologist or on your own  
  • Avoid drugs, alcohol and stimulants 
  • Incorporate relaxation and self-care into your routine
  • Practice exercise, healthy eating habits and getting enough sleep