Interior of The Therapy Clinic in Hove

When Does Stress Become a Problem?

We have all been stressed. It’s impossible to not be during this day and age when we have so many things on our minds. Whether it’s work related or a problem at home, it’s difficult to escape when we’re in the moment. Not all stress is a bad thing. It’s a natural reaction to prepare us and gear us up so we’re in the best shape to tackle a problem. In small doses, stress is normal. Some people thrive under stressful conditions, perfectly able to function under pressure and then can unwind afterwards. However, there’s also the other side of stress. What if we can’t unwind? What if it doesn’t stop and we’re stuck in a stressful situation without any sign of relief? What if we’re coming home from work and we’re still stressed? That is when it becomes a problem and it interferes with your everyday life. Everyone deserves time off from stress.

What is stress?

Stress is a reaction to a problematic situation. In order for you to be in the best physical shape to cope in a potentially harmful situation, your heart rate increases, your muscles tense and your breathing quickens. This is all down to a chemical reaction in your body for when adrenaline enters your bloodstream in response to the stimulus that triggered your stress. Adrenaline causes a ‘fight-or-flight’ response, preparing you for danger. The issue with stress is that the reaction is often disproportionate to the problem. You’ll trigger the same physical reaction in your body that’s hard-wired in us all to get us out of threatening situations. So when you’re running late for a meeting or have an up-coming exam that you don’t feel prepared for, your body’s chemical reaction is the same as if you’re in danger.

What are the different types of stress?

There are two main branches of stress – acute and chronic. Acute stress is the form it takes when you need to have a burst of energy to deal with a current issue. It lasts only for a few hours, but it can become very overwhelming. Chronic stress stays with us if we’re living in a situation that is constantly firing off the triggers that make us feel threatened and under pressure. Both types of stress can affect our mental, emotional and physical wellbeing.

What are the symptoms of stress?

The moment stress starts to impact our health. It’s a signal that it’s time to look for ways to reduce stress levels so you can manage them. Stress tends to form a cycle where the symptoms themselves end up becoming a cause for stress in itself.

Emotional signs of stress

  • Agitation and short temper
  • Feeling overwhelmed as if you aren’t in control of the situation
  • Constant anxiety
  • Low mood and sadness
  • Fear of failure

Physical signs of stress

  • Headaches and migraines
  • Muscle tension and aches
  • Upset stomach including constipation, sickness and diarrhoea
  • Racing heart and palpitations
  • Frequent colds down to a reduced immune response
  • Dry mouth and thirst
  • Clenching jaw and grinding teeth (bruxism)

Psychological signs of stress

  • Lack of concentration
  • Restlessness
  • Memory issues
  • Difficulty with decision-making
  • Difficulty with sleeping (insomnia)

When is stress a problem?

The moment stress doesn’t go away naturally, it’s a problem. Your body can handle small bouts of stress, but not long-term. If not managed, stress can contribute to health problems. including mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. Stress also has an impact on blood pressure and heart disease.

Identifying when stress is a problem is the easy part. The challenge is how to manage it and cope under situations which we find ourselves in. Everyday life doesn’t always give us the chance to make do on the fight-or-flight response. In these situations, stress can exhibit itself as anxiety, potentially even causing panic attacks. If we are able to tackle stress before it takes over, we’ll be able to reduce the symptoms and impacts on our mental and physical health. However, sometimes the cause for stress isn’t straight-forward and there can be many different triggers layered together. We might not be able to take ourselves out of the situation causing the stress, but we can better understand it and acknowledge what about the situation makes you feel a certain way. Once we know the root of the problem, we can start to address the cause and manage stress in a healthier way.

How to manage stress

Many different situations will cause us to feel stressed. Everyone feels stress for different reasons and you’ll not always feel the same level of stress towards the same situation as someone else might. The important thing is to recognise when our level of stress is causing a problem in our daily life Rather than worry about whether the stress we feel is justified.

Breathing techniques

Slowing down your breathing during a stressful time will lower your heart rate and reduce the physical symptoms of stress. If your heart is racing and the stress is building, take a moment to catch your breath. You should breathe from your diaphragm to ensure you make use of your full lung capacity so feel it go all the way down to your stomach when you breathe in. Take slow, measured breaths, counting 1 to 5, breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth. If you keep this up for five minutes, you’ll start to feel much calmer.

Set achievable goals

One of the main causes for stress is being confronted by a huge task that makes us feel completely overwhelmed. It can leave us feeling like it’s impossible to get done, that there’s no point in trying or that we have to work ourselves to the bone to get a deadline met. Rather than thinking of it as one huge undertaking, we can split it into smaller steps. Looking at a problem as a series of small tasks helps us to realistically set goals rather than stress out about an impossible one.

Be kind to yourself

Learning to care for yourself will help you to feel better about a situation. If you feel stressed give yourself breaks during the day. We don’t have to be busy every second of the day in order to get things done. Time out from the stress is necessary to look after your own health and wellbeing. If you blame or question yourself for the level of stress you feel it will almost certainly make it worse

Exercise regularly

Letting off some steam gives you that necessary catharsis. Exercise doesn’t just look after your physical health, but tops you up with endorphins that will improve your mood and outlook on things as a whole. You’ll also be able to take yourself out of the stressful situation for a moment and burn off the pent up energy that’s causing all the stress in the first place.

Talk to someone

You don’t have to struggle alone with stress even if that’s how it feels sometimes. If a situation is overwhelming you, then it can help to share the burden with someone. If you are struggling to manage stress You might want to consider seeking professional help Therapy can help you get through a stressful time in your life that you don’t feel able to manage yourself. Whether you’re going through a problem at work, relationship issues, money problems or legal matters, therapy can help you through the challenges you’re facing.

Speak with a therapist

If stress is becoming a problem and you’re based in Brighton, you can arrange for an appointment with one of our certified psychotherapists or counsellors. To get started on managing your stress, you can book for an initial consultation here, email us on or call on 01273 068175.

Interior of The Therapy Clinic in Hove

Related posts

How to Help Someone Having a Panic Attack

The Therapy Clinic are working to support people affected by Covid-19 - find out more here

How Does Therapy Help Challenge Negative Thoughts?

The Therapy Clinic are working to support people affected by Covid-19 - find out more here

What are the signs of depression?

The Therapy Clinic are working to support people affected by Covid-19 - find out more here