Mental Health Awareness Week, 14th-20th May 2018
What is stress?
Stress is our body’s response to pressures from a situation or life event. It is the degree to which you feel overwhelmed or unable to cope as a result of pressures that are unmanageable. People react to stress in different ways and this depends largely on our social and economic circumstances, the environment we live in and our genetic makeup.
When we encounter stress, our body is stimulated to produce stress hormones that trigger a ‘flight or fight’ response and activate our immune system.
Some amount of stress may be beneficial (as in the case of presenting to an audience or running a marathon); but when it becomes overwhelming and persistent, the effects can impact both physical and mental health.
Causes of stress
There are many things that can lead to stress. Death of a loved one, divorce or separation, losing a job, taking exams, chronic ill-health and money problems are some of the top causes of stress. It may be noted that not all life events are negative; even positive life changes, such as moving house, gaining a new or being promoted and going on holiday can be sources of stress.
Who is affected by stress?
Most of us experience stress at some point or other. Research shows that some individuals or groups of people seem to be more affected by stress than others. For example, people living with debt or financial insecurity are more likely to experience stress related to money; people from minority ethnic groups (including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) may be more likely to experience stress due to prejudice, or discrimination, and those with pre-existing or chronic health conditions may be more likely to experience stress related to their illness or due to stigma associated with their condition.