Why are we so stressed?

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The word ‘stress’ has become part of our everyday vocabulary. We use it colloquially to refer to anything that makes us feel under pressure.

Generally we refer to stress as a negative thing, but, in moderate amounts, stress can help us perform more efficiently.

There are many causes of stress, but the main ones include financial or health problems, relationship difficulties and the workplace.

However, stress is a real concern, with around 44 per cent of the population in the UK claiming to have suffered from stress at some point in their life.

Researchers suggest that chronic stress is related to major illnesses like heart disease and high blood pressure, but can also cause back pain, headaches, digestive problems, sleep loss and exhaustion.

Stress is also linked to depression, anxiety, mood swings, restlessness, irritability, forgetfulness, and many other negative mental and behavioural symptoms.

There are many causes of stress, but the main ones include financial or health problems, relationship difficulties and the workplace.

All these have the potential to lead to long term stress.

There are two types of stress — external stress, such as the death of a loved one or a global recession, and internal stress, which is how we respond to events in our life.

There is nothing we can do about the first type of stress. However, we have a lot of control on how we handle internal stress.

How do we deal with stress?

There are cases in which we can remove the causes of stress, but this is not always possible.

At times, looking at the bigger picture may help — will this issue still matter in a month or a year?

Focus on the things you can control, such as how you react to the stressors in your life.

A great way to do this is to identify activities which relax you.

Some people find listening to the right kind of music a great way to let go of stress.

Exercise can be a great stress reliever: It helps you blow off steam and releases endorphins, the hormones which make us feel happy and content.

Also, relaxation techniques, with practice, can fully release virtually all the tension you’re feeling in your body in a matter of seconds.

Share your feelings. The simple act of expressing what you’re going through can be very liberating, even if there’s nothing you can do to alter the stressful situation.

Opening up is not a sign of weakness and it won’t make you a burden to others.

Anna Dallavalle is a counsellor working with individuals and couples and has a private practice in Morpeth.

For information email steppingstonesne@yahoo.com