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Stress causes physical changes in the body designed to help you take on threats or difficulties.
You may notice that your heart pounds, your breathing quickens, your muscles tense and you start to sweat.
This is sometimes known as the 'fight or flight' response.
Once the threat or difficulty passes, these physical effects usually fade. But if you're constantly stressed, your body stays in a state of high alert and you may develop stress-related symptoms.
Stress can affect how you feel emotionally, mentally and physically, and also how you behave.
How you may feel emotionally
How you may feel mentally
How you may feel physically
How you may behave
You can't always prevent stress, but there are lots of things you can do to manage stress better. You could:
Other things that may help:
Big life changes often create stress, even happy events like having a baby or planning a wedding.
Feeling that you aren't in control of events in your life – for example, if you are diagnosed with a serious illness or you get made redundant – can also cause stress.
Stress may be related to:
It's important to tackle the causes of stress in your life if you can. Avoiding problems rather than facing them can make things worse.
However, it's not always possible to change a stressful situation. You may need to accept there's nothing you can do about it and refocus your energies elsewhere. For example, if you're a carer, find ways to take breaks and do the things you enjoy.
If you've tried self-help techniques and they aren't working, see your doctor. There are lots of other options open to you, such as guided self-help or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
You may be able to attend a stress management course.
Important: Our website provides useful information but is not a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor when making decisions about your health.