Daily life can be stressful. Stress can be a positive thing and help you achieve your goals. However, too much stress can put your health at risk and leave you unable to function.
Everyone reacts differently to stress. Some people may have a higher threshold than others.
Too much stress can often lead to physical, mental and emotional problems.
The brain stress systems
Stress reaction is any physiological or psychological reaction to physical, mental, or emotional stress that disturbs the organism's homeostasis.
Stress alters brain chemistry, create hormonal imbalances, increase heart rate, raise blood pressure, and negatively affect both metabolic and immune function. It is also important to recognize that although stress itself is not a disease, it can worsen any number of already serious physical conditions (170).
The brain stress systems involved the pituitary gland, nucleus of the stria terminalis, the adrenal gland, hippocampus, the central nucleus of the amygdala.
Effects of stress
Everyone feels stressed at times. You may feel under pressure, worried, tense, upset, sad, angry or maybe a mixture of uncomfortable feelings.
There are many ordinary situations that can make you feel stressed. For example, your school work may pile up, preparing for exams may seem as if it's taking forever, you may be being teased or bullied at school, or having problems with teachers. At home you may be arguing with parents, brothers or sisters, or close friends.
Stress can be even worse if your family is breaking up, someone close to you is ill or dies, or if you are being physically or sexually abused (171).
Stress can affect you physically
Your body is designed to be able to cope with stresses such as danger, illness and emergencies. This is called your “fight or flight” instinct, where hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol gear your body up to cope with immediate stressful situations. For example, if you accidentally step into the road when a car is coming, adrenaline will pump around your body enabling you to jump out of the way of the car - this is your “flight” instinct coming into play in a short-lived stressful situation. Your body is less able to cope with longer-lasting pressure. This can make you feel tired, make you go off your food and find it difficult to sleep. You may get stomach-aches or headaches.
Stress can affect you mentally
You may find it hard to keep your mind on your work, to cope with frustration or to control your temper. You might get depressed. Stress that goes on for a long time can be exhausting.
Understanding and support from other people can make it much easier to cope. If you have someone you can trust to talk to, this can help. Feeling alone makes it harder (76).
You should get help if...
You feel that stress is affecting your health
You feel so desperate that you think about stopping school, running away or harming yourself
You feel low, sad, tearful, or that life is not worth living
You lose your appetite and find it difficult to sleep
You have worries, feelings and thoughts that are hard to talk about because you feel people won't understand you or will think you are “weird”; stress is making you hear voices telling you what to do, or making you behave strangely (171). It is possible that you are depressed rather than stressed if you feel these things. If so, it is very important that you get specialist help as soon as possible (171).
You may seek therapy in order to manage your life differently or support you in developing coping strategies for your day-to-day life (172).