What is stress?

Stress is a physiological and psychological response that occurs when an individual perceives a situation or demand as challenging, overwhelming, or threatening to their well-being or equilibrium. It’s a natural reaction that has evolved as a survival mechanism, often referred to as the “fight or flight” response. When faced with stressors, the body releases hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, which prepare the individual to respond quickly and effectively to the perceived threat.

What are the signs of stress

Stress can stem from various sources, such as external factors (like work pressure, financial issues, or relationship problems) or internal factors (like personal expectations, worries, or self-imposed standards). The intensity of stress and how it is experienced can vary from person to person, and some levels of stress can be motivating and beneficial in certain situations. However, chronic or excessive stress without adequate coping mechanisms can have negative impacts on both physical and mental health.

Physical symptoms of stress can include:

  • Increased Heart Rate
  • Muscle Tension
  • Shallow Breathing
  • Digestive Issues

Psychological symptoms may encompass:

  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Difficulty Concentrating
  • Mood Swings

If left unmanaged, chronic stress can contribute to various health problems such as cardiovascular issues, weakened immune system, and mental health disorders like anxiety and depression.

Effective stress management involves recognizing the sources of stress, developing coping strategies (such as relaxation techniques, exercise, mindfulness, time management, and seeking social support), and making lifestyle adjustments to promote overall well-being. It’s important to find a balance between challenges and the ability to cope with them to maintain a healthy and productive life.


What are the statistics on stress in the UK?

Up to September 2021, stress was a significant issue in the UK, both in terms of its prevalence and its impact on individuals and society. Here are some key statistics from before September 2021:

Work-related Stress:

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) reported that in 2019/20, work-related stress, depression, or anxiety accounted for 51% of all work-related ill health cases and 55% of all working days lost due to ill health.

The main work factors cited by respondents as causing work-related stress were workload pressures, including tight deadlines and too much responsibility.

Mental Health Impact:

Stress is one of the most common reasons for people seeking help from mental health services in the UK.

The Mental Health Foundation’s 2018 survey found that 74% of adults in the UK have felt so stressed at some point over the past year that they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope.

Impact on Physical Health:

Stress is associated with a range of physical health issues, including cardiovascular problems, digestive disorders, and weakened immune systems.

Impact on Productivity and Economy:

Stress can lead to decreased productivity, absenteeism, and increased employee turnover, which can have economic implications for businesses and the country as a whole.

Young People and Stress:

Young people in the UK have also been affected by stress, often related to education, exams, and peer pressure.

The 2018 Children’s Society’s Good Childhood Report found that nearly a quarter of girls and one in ten boys aged 14 reported feeling unhappy with their lives due to the pressure to look a certain way.


Who to contact about stress UK

If you or someone you know is experiencing stress in the UK and needs assistance or support, there are several organizations and resources you can reach out to:

NHS (National Health Service): The NHS provides a range of mental health services and resources. You can start by contacting your local GP (general practitioner) for advice, assessment, and potential referrals to specialist services.

Mind: Mind is a mental health charity in the UK that offers information, advice, and support to anyone experiencing mental health issues, including stress. They have local branches that provide various services and resources.

Mind Infoline: 0300 123 3393 (Monday to Friday, 9 am to 6 pm)

Textline: Text “HELLO” to 85258

Samaritans: Samaritans is a helpline offering emotional support to anyone in distress, including those experiencing stress. They provide a safe space to talk about feelings and thoughts.

Helpline: 116 123 (available 24/7)

Anxiety UK: This charity specializes in helping people with anxiety disorders, which can include stress and related conditions. They offer support, information, and access to therapy services.

Helpline: 03444 775 774 (Monday to Friday, 9:30 am to 5:30 pm)

Your University or Workplace: If you’re a student, your university may have counseling services available to help with stress. Similarly, workplaces often have Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) that provide support for employees dealing with stress.

Online Resources: There are many online resources, apps, and websites that offer information and tools to manage stress and improve mental well-being. Examples include the NHS Every Mind Matters website and apps like Headspace and Calm.

Local Support Groups: Check for local support groups or community organizations that offer peer support and discussions about stress and mental health. These groups can be a valuable source of understanding and connection.

Crisis Teams and Emergency Services: If you or someone you know is in immediate danger or experiencing a mental health crisis, call 999 or go to the nearest Accident & Emergency (A&E) department.

Remember that seeking help and support is a sign of strength, and there are many resources available to assist you in managing stress and improving your mental well-being.