1. What exactly is stress?

According to the WHO, stress is a “state of worry or mental tension caused by a difficult situation… a natural human response that prompts us to address challenges and threats in our lives.”

Simply put, ‘stress’ is a natural state of emotional, psychological, or bodily tension or worry that occurs when there is a ‘perceived’ threat or imbalance between the demands set and the resources available to meet those needs.

Stress can be caused by emotions of inadequacy in the face of life’s challenges.

  • Is it normal to be stressed?

Stress is a natural human reaction that everyone experiences.

In truth, the human body is built to handle stress. When you go through changes or confront challenges, your body has a mechanism in place that produces physical and mental responses to keep you safe in the face of potential danger.

These biological responses are referred to as ‘stress,’ and the process is controlled by sections of the brain.

Because stress is a normal physiologic response to life’s pressures and obligations, everyone experiences it at different times throughout their lives.

Stress responses assist your body in adapting to new environments. Stress can be beneficial in that it keeps us attentive, motivated, and ready to avert danger.

  • What factors contribute to stress?

The sources of stress differ from person to person. Thus, stress is unique to each individual; what affects one person may not overwhelm another.

However, stress can be caused by external triggers such as family conflict, personal relationships, financial hardship, work problems, acute illness, life events (e.g., the loss of a job or a loved one), and internal ones, such as feelings of failure, unworthiness, or uncertainty about the future.

  • Why are some people more sensitive to stress than others?

A person’s level of stress is determined by their resilience and capacity to manage successfully when confronted with a threat or danger, or when resources are thought to be insufficient to satisfy demands in any given situation.

In addition, genetics, early life experiences, personality, and social variables all play a role.

Your tolerance for stress may be more or lower than that of people around you.


2. When does stress become problematic?

When stress lasts too long or occurs frequently without reprieve or intervals of relaxation, it can overwhelm you.

This condition is referred to as chronic or long-term stress, and it can have a severe impact on both mental and physical health.

Stress is not an illness in and of itself, but it can lead to significant illness if not properly managed.


3. How does your body react to stress?

According to research, our body’s first response begins in the brain within seconds of sensing a challenging situation. Chemicals (including serotonin and adrenaline) are released, followed by ‘stress’ hormones.

These stress hormones often influence parts of the brain that are primarily in charge of regulating our emotions and memory.

Stress produces an increase in hormone levels in your body. These stress hormones are released to help you deal with pressures or threats, which is known as the “fight or flight” reaction.

Your pulse quickens, you breathe faster, your muscles tense, and your brain needs more oxygen and becomes more active in these situations. Once the stress or threat has passed, your stress hormone levels should return to normal.

However, if you are consistently stressed, these chemicals will persist in your body, causing stress symptoms.


4. What impact does stress have on your mental health?

Understanding how stress affects your mental health is crucial. The longer you are stressed, the worse it is for your mind and body.

Long-lasting triggering of the system that responds to stress can increase your chance of developing a number of mental health issues.

To begin with, stress has a psychological effect that might appear as anger or aggression, a loss of control, sleeplessness, burnout, exhaustion, unhappiness or crying, poor concentration or memory impairment.

More importantly, unmanaged long-term (chronic) stress raises the risk of developing mental disorders such as anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and psychosis.

Additionally, stress has been connected to physical health issues such as muscle strain and pain, migraines, digestive disorders, heart disease, heart attack, high blood pressure, stroke, sleep problems, and weight gain.

 Long-term stress also lowers the immune system, making recovery from illnesses more difficult.


5. What are the signs and symptoms of stress?

Feeling overburdened or on edge, being tired or tense, having difficulties concentrating, using drink or drugs, being depressed, or having anxiety are examples of mental or behavioral symptoms.

Physical signs include chest pain or an accelerated heartbeat, lightheadedness, and shortness of breath. headaches, chilly sweats, nausea.


6. How can stress be managed?

There is nothing you can do to prevent stress, but there are numerous things you can do to better manage stress. Good stress management helps both your physical and emotional wellbeing.

To effectively manage stress, you must be able to calm and soothe yourself when confronted with stressful thoughts that may result in unwanted feelings such as worry, despair, grief, or anger.

    1. Learn to “ground” yourself by noticing unpleasant thoughts, letting them go, and refocusing your attention on positive ones.
    2. Get some exercise on a regular basis. Walking for 30 minutes every day might help enhance your mood and improve your health.
    3. Organize and manage your time. Prioritize your tasks. Identify and attend to what must be done right away and leave for later what can wait. If you begin to feel overloaded, learn to say “no” to new tasks.
    4. Engage in soothing activities. Make time and practice relaxation techniques such as meditation, breathing or muscle relaxation techniques, or attend wellness programs on a regular basis.
    5. Maintain your connections. Make relationships and stay in touch with a supporting network, whether it’s made up of family, friends, religious or community organizations, or trustworthy experts; ask for assistance when you need it.

7. When should you seek help for stress?

 If you frequently feel stressed or overwhelmed and are unable to manage your emotions on your own, or if you feel scared or unable to function at school, work, or home, speak with a healthcare provider or mental health professional about measures you can take to reduce and manage stress in your life.

With the correct support, you will learn to cope, lessen the impacts of stress, and become more functional in your daily tasks.




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At HFH, we genuinely care for our patients and we strive to leave them better than we met them.

Meet our director

Dr. Charlotte Nwigwe is an MBBS degree holder from the University of Benin and a fellow of the National Postgraduate Medical College in Psychiatry.

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