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 in fact be motivating to another.
Many of life's demands can cause stress, particularly work, relationships and money problems. And, when you feel stressed, it can affect everything you do.
Read more about what causes stress.
Stress can affect how you feel, how you think, how you behave and how your body works. Sleeping problems, sweating, loss of appetite and difficulty concentrating are all common signs of stress.
Stress is not an illness itself, but it can cause serious illness if it is not addressed. It is important to recognise the symptoms of stress early.
Recognising the signs and symptoms of stress will help you figure out ways of coping and save you from adopting unhealthy coping methods, such as drinking or smoking.
Spotting the early signs of stress will also help prevent it getting worse and potentially causing serious complications, such as high blood pressure (hypertension), anxiety and depression.
Read more about the health complications of stress.
There is little you can do to prevent stress, but there are many things you can do to manage stress more effectively, such as learning how to relax, taking regular exercise and adopting good time management techniques.
Read more about how to manage stress effectively.
When to see your GP
If you've tried self-help techniques and they aren't working, you should go to see your GP. They may suggest other coping techniques for you to try or recommend some form of counselling.
If your stress is causing serious health problems, such as high blood pressure, you may need medication or further tests.
Mental health issues, including stress, anxiety and depression, are the reason for 1 in 5 visits to a GP.
Read more about treating stress.
Common questions about stress answered
How do I deal with health problems caused by work?
Do I have an anxiety disorder?
What is a panic attack?