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Worcestershire Health and Care NHS Trust
What is Stress
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What is anxiety?

Anxiety is an emotion which usually involves an element of worry and fear. It affects our thoughts, behaviours and physical reactions in our body. Although anxiety can be unpleasant, it is actually an evolutionary survival mechanism. When we find ourselves in dangerous or stressful situations, anxiety helps us by preparing our body to either run away or fight back. This is known as the “fight versus flight” response.

Although anxiety can help us survive, it can start to become a problem when the fight versus flight response is triggered when there is little need for it. Although anxiety is natural and can be helpful in dangerous or stressful situations it becomes a problem when we experience anxiety too often, for too long, and when the situation does not typically warrant it.

What is low mood?

Low mood (or depression) is another emotion which can cause emotional distress. People can often experience a number of different symptoms that can affect the way that we think, the things that we do, as well as the physical symptoms that we can experience. This can then impact people further by causing their mood to deteriorate even more. Research has shown that the main causes for low mood can be linked to genetics, biology, early life experiences, or a combination of stressful or major life events such as a relationship breakdown, loss of a loved one or any traumatic event. When feeling low, people may find themselves thinking negatively about themselves and others. Other common symptoms of low mood may include withdrawing from activities or social interaction, sleep difficulties, as well as changes with eating. People experiencing low mood can also think that life is not worth living, or may even think about harming or killing themselves. This can be quite common for people who are experiencing low mood.

What is stress?

Stress is the feeling of being under too much mental or emotional pressure. Pressure turns into stress when you feel unable to cope. People have different ways of reacting to stress, so a situation that feels stressful to one person may be motivating to someone else. Many of life’s demands can cause stress, particularly work, relationships and money problems. And, when you feel stressed, it can get in the way of sorting out these demands, or can even affect everything you do.

Stress can affect how you feel, think, behave and how your body works. In fact, common signs of stress include sleeping problems, feeling uptight, feeling overwhelmed and difficulty concentrating. You may feel anxious, irritable or low in self-esteem, and you may have racing thoughts, worry constantly or go over things in your head. You may notice that you lose your temper more easily, drink more or act unreasonably.

You may also experience headaches, muscle tension or pain, or dizziness. Stress causes a surge of hormones in your body. These stress hormones are released to enable you to deal with pressures or threats – the so-called "fight or flight" response. Once the pressure or threat has passed, your stress hormone levels will usually return to normal. However, if you're constantly under stress, these hormones will remain in your body, leading to the symptoms of stress.