Stress is the way the body responds to demands and challenges. Not all stress is bad, and stress can sometimes be productive. However, long-term stress can be bad for health, and stress can sometimes be overwhelming to the point that it affects a person’s day-to-day life.

Some people may find themselves acting or feeling differently without realising that this is the result of high stress.

Such behavioural changes can include a person becoming irritable, suffering sleeping problems (whether sleeping too much or not enough), changing their eating or drinking patterns, or avoiding certain things or people. Concentration problems, difficulty in decision-making, forgetfulness, and feelings of being overwhelmed can also be present. Physically, stress can lead to headaches, chest pain, a faster heartbeat, muscle pains, stomach pain, or sexual problems.

People can do a number of things themselves to try and cope with stress. These include – if possible – talking problems through with a friend or family member, speaking to an organisation like the Samaritans, exercising, and doing calming breathing exercises. It’s also useful to set out goals, prioritising tasks to be done so that the most important are done first, and saying “no” to taking on new things if they exceed a person’s capacity.

However, if these things do not help, a GP can be contacted.

Some therapies such as cognitive behaviour therapy may be available to treat prolonged stress.