What is Stress, and what can you do about it?

A short summary of what stress is, the most common symptoms, who is vulnerable and what you can do about it

By Team Helsa 4th December 2019

Photo by Jason Corey

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Team Helsa


Whether we’re overworked, waiting for some test results or going through a difficult period, stress is something almost all of us feel at some point in our lives. Stress is the way in which your body responds to a challenging situation and in theory it’s meant to prepare you to successfully deal with the demands of your environment.

In simple words, stress isn’t all bad. But what happens when you are experiencing stress and aren’t equipped to deal with it?

Stress is only good when it leads to positive action, and successful resolution. It can however have a drastic effect on your health if you don’t know how to manage it or are constantly stressed.

There are different kinds of stressors leading to different manifestations of stress – physical, psychological and mental. A stressor can be a short-term or one-time occurrence or it can be a recurrent event leading to chronic stress over time. To deal with and recover from stress one needs to have proper coping skills.

Symptoms of Stress

Stress can affect you psychologically, physically, emotionally and behaviourally.

Psychological symptoms include:

  • inability to think properly or concentrate

  • feeling lethargic

  • confusion and absent-mindedness

  • negative thoughts

Physical symptoms include:

  • tension in muscles especially shoulders, head, and back

  • fatigue or tiredness

  • change in sleep and eating patterns

  • restlessness

Emotional symptoms include:

  • mood swings

  • irritability and anger

  • depression and worry

  • resentment and negative thoughts

  • hopelessness and finding life meaningless

  • loss of direction

Behavioural symptoms include:

  • irritability and lashing out

  • lack of desire

  • turning to drugs or alcohol use

  • avoiding social situation

Who is vulnerable?

Stress and anxiety are part of one’s daily life. Some individuals are more vulnerable to stress than others. The only difference between people who manage stress better than others is the way they cope with it – coping strategies.
Coping strategies can be good or bad, and every individual copes with stress in a different manner. It goes without saying that some people are naturally good at handling stress - natural disposition and training, while others are prone to letting minor stressors get to them.

The Next Step?

A question here is, how do you know whether the level of stress you experience is within a normal range or not? Trust us, you will know, but take this quiz to know for sure.

Managing stress becomes easy when you know the strategies which work best for you. Some use physical exercise, while others turn to meditation to reduce their stress. Treatments for stress include therapy options like interpersonal therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy and person-centred therapy which are all focused on teaching the individuals ways to manage their stress in a more positive manner.