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This is exactly how excessive stress levels affect your body and mind

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Harvey Day
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When stress runs away with you, this is what it does to your mental wellbeing and your physical health

Stress is something we all have to find a way to deal with every single day of our lives. Personal problems, money troubles and career strife can all stack up until, eventually, we simply cannot cope.

But what happens when stress really runs away with us? What impact does it have on our minds and bodies?

“Stress manifests itself in a number of ways, both physically and mentally and, similarly, can have a wide impact on our physical and mental wellbeing,” according to Anxiety CEO Nicky Lidbetter.

Stephen Buckley, Head of Information at Mind, added: “Stress is a part of everyday life. Sometimes it can be useful, motivating us and helping us accomplish tasks up against a deadline, for example.

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“However, different people will be able to cope with different levels of stress. When it gets too much and these feelings become unmanageable, it can negatively affect our physical and mental health - sometimes leading to mental health problems such as depression or anxiety.”

Too much stress can lead to breathing problems

Mental wellbeing

“Psychologically, severe anxiety and stress can prevent people from reaching their full potential through erosion of self-confidence and self-esteem. For all of these reasons and more, it is essential to seek help with anxiety, stress and anxiety-based depression because with support these conditions can be effectively managed so that they do not negatively impact on overall health,” says Nicky Lidbetter.

On top of physical symptoms

“Stress can affect us all in various ways, but there are signs to look out for: feeling irritated; finding it hard to sleep or struggling to concentrate. You may feel really upset and emotional, or feel like crying. You might also notice some physical signs, like headaches, upset stomach, or difficulty breathing. Severe stress can have an impact on your blood pressure too,” according to Stephen Buckley.

Some people can even be driven to drink because of stress

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And sometimes substance abuse

“Being in an anxious state for a long period of time might drive people to adopt faulty coping strategies in order to ‘manage’ anxiety, including substance misuse such as increased alcohol intake,” according to Lidbetter.

“It can also lead to the development of physical health issues such as muscular tension, headaches and also palpitations – all of which can have a derogatory effect on overall health.”

Here’s how to cope

“If you’re experiencing stress, the first thing to do is to learn how you can better manage the pressure you are under. From time management skills, to improving how you communicate with those you feel are putting unreasonable demands on you, there are plenty of small steps you can take to help alleviate the causes of stress,” Stephen Buckley says.

“Then it’s important to find ways to relax. Breathing exercises, for example, are a great way of calming yourself down when you are feeling stressed. They only take a couple of minutes and, once you have learned the technique, you can do them pretty much anywhere to get your mind and body under control.

“Thirdly, make sure you look after yourself properly. Making sure you get enough sleep, eat well and do physical exercise can work wonders for overall stress levels.

“If you feel ongoing stress, or your mental health is having a negative impact on your wellbeing, then speak to somebody about it. If you’re struggling with unmanageable stress or poor mental health, and the feelings last longer than two weeks, or keep returning, you might want to speak to your GP, who can talk you through the support that’s available. It can be daunting, but Mind has produced a guide on how to speak to your GP about mental health.”

(Images: Getty)

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Harvey Day

Harvey Day

Digital writer for Shortlist.com / @harveyday94 / harvey.day@shortlist.com

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