Each of us know what being stressed feels like, those times when we’re placed under pressure when we’ve far too much to do and think about, or situations during which too many demands are placed upon us that we find it difficult to cope. Being in the thick fog of stress can become overwhelming.

Although there is no medical definition of stress, and that health professionals often disagree over if it might be the cause or the result of problems, this just makes it more difficult for us to work out our own feeling towards the issue—and how to deal with it. Whatever your personal definition of stress might be, stress can become out of control or indeed manageable—and that achievable through managing external pressures so that stressful situations don’t occur as frequently as they might. Another way is in developing your emotional resilience in order to better your coping with tough situations when they do happen, and granted this takes a little time.

A certain amount of pressure in life is healthy, enabling you to take action, feel energised and to get results. Allowing yourself to become overwhelmed by stress as a result of this process will become problematic—that said stress isn’t a psychiatric diagnosis but is linked to your mental health in two important ways as it can cause existing problems to worsen. It can worsen anxiety or depression. In turn, existing mental health problems can cause stress—coping with the day-to-day symptoms of your mental health problem can be challenging and time consuming and you might struggle to see where stress ends and your mental health problem begins.

Stress can have a physical reaction to our body too, making us feel tired, give us a headache or an upset stomach. Feeling stressed can often mean loss of sleep, and a poor diet which will have a long-term affect on our physical health—which can also make us feel more stressed emotionally.

Stress and anxiety result in the body releasing hormones (cortisol and adrenaline) and if stress is a constant factor in your life you are likely to be producing high levels of these hormones, which can make you feel physically unwell and could have a detrimental affect to your health longer term.

Stress can result in feelings of irritability, aggression, feeling ‘wound up’ or impatient. Your head might feel ‘tight’ with far too many thoughts fleeting through and around it at once. You will feel overwhelmed or overburdened, anxious, nervous, or afraid. There will be an inability to enjoy yourself, with a sense of dread often taking over. Depression may accompany stress in which case you may feel uninterested in life, neglected or lonely.

Severe stress can bring out behaviours in people, including suicidal feelings. It can change how you might behave, make decision making difficult and cause constant worrying to the point you avoid situations that trouble you. Your fuse might become far too short, that you snap at folk. Nail biting or skin picking is common. Concentration is out of the question as is a healthy diet as we embark on too little or too much food (and perhaps no two days are the same). Some of us turn to smoking or drinking. As for sitting still, that might become as impossible as attempting not to cry.

With the behaviour side of things covered, lets turn to the physical stuff. You know, because the list above isn’t enough, right? Your breathing might become shallow, or perhaps you may hyperventilate or have a panic attack. Muscles might become tense, and your eyesight might blur, or your eyes may become sore. There may be sleeping issues such as falling or staying asleep (or having nightmares). Sexual problems can manifest too, perhaps a loss of interest or not being able to enjoy sex might become an issue. Becoming tired all the time, teeth grinding or clenching your jaw, headaches and chest pains. This list continues I’m sorry to share with high blood pressure, indigestion or heartburn, constipation or diarrhoea, feeling sick, feeling dizzy or fainting.

The world feels like it might close in on you, you can’t breathe and are running out of time. It is closing in on you, you can't breathe and are running out of time.

Stress is, generally, caused by perception of a situation. It could be connected to your past experiences, self-esteem, how your thought processes work (optimist or pessimist), how experienced you might be at dealing with pressure and your emotional resilience to stressful situations. It also depends upon the quantity of pressures that are upon you at any given time and the amount of support you are receiving.

Situations that cause one person stress, might not have the same detrimental effect on someone else and each of us take a differing perspective on life and cope differently in each situation we are faced with.