Understanding and treating stress

You don't have to struggle with stress - help is available.

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Page medically reviewed by Dr Ian Nnatu (MBBS, PG DIP (CBT), MSc, FRCPsych, MRCPsych), Consultant Adult Psychiatrist at Priory Hospital North London, in May 2022.

We know that everyone’s response to stress is different. You may have been through challenging times which inevitably feel like too much to deal with by yourself. Or you may feel that you're struggling to process even the most minor situations, allowing them to stand in the way of your happiness.

We understand that living with stress can feel unbearable. It can be completely draining, weakening your ability to manage the pressures of daily life. Your responsibilities can become too much to cope with, which can lead to you feeling worn down by relationships, work and even hobbies you used to enjoy. If you feel like this, Priory can help you to feel better and start to make the most of life again.

With our support, you can turn things around. Whatever your situation, accessing the right treatment with Priory can make a significant difference to the way you're feeling and address your problem stress. Rather than feeling like you're merely getting through the day, you deserve to feel like you can handle and take more pleasure from life.

Our experts know how to treat stress in a way that addresses your symptoms and gives you the building blocks for a happier future. Your recovery journey starts as soon as you contact us, and we'll work with you to deliver our effective, proven programmes.

What is stress?

Stress is the feeling of being under too much mental or emotional pressure.

Although stress often helps us feel motivated, it’s a growing problem in the busy and demanding world we live in. Increasing demands of work, relationships and finances can all lead to feelings of not being able to cope with the pressure.

Stress can affect us physically and mentally. It can interfere with the way we think, our feelings and emotions and how we behave. Being under stress causes a 'fight or flight response', due to release of hormones like adrenaline. Some stress is necessary and helps us perform well - meeting deadlines and targets, for example. However, problems can arise when your stress is constant.

Early signs of stress include poor sleep, tiredness and irritability. You may notice you aren’t performing as well at work and starting to drink more to unwind and rely on caffeine to get you through the day.

If your stress continues to build, your ability to do your job may be affected. You may struggle to get on with people you work with and may start to experience physical symptoms such as headaches, high blood pressure and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Signs and symptoms of stress

Unfortunately, mental health problems such as anxiety and depression can develop if stress is untreated. This can lead to significant difficulties, not only at work, but in other areas of your life. Relationships can suffer, panic attacks can start and sometimes depression can be accompanied by thoughts of self-harm and suicide as well as dependence on alcohol and drugs as a way of coping. So it's important to know the signs and symptoms to look out for.

common symptoms of stress

If you’ve been struggling with stress, it's likely that you've experienced some of these physical symptoms:

  • Appetite changes – either increased or reduced appetite, which may also result in weight fluctuations
  • Being restless or unable to sit still
  • Sleep disturbances, including insomnia
  • Feeling tired all the time and having no energy
  • Unexplained aches and pains
  • Unexplained digestive problems
  • Frequent infections and colds
  • Sexual dysfunction, including reduced libido and erectile difficulties
  • Hyperventilating
  • Muscle tension
  • Nausea and diarrhoea
  • Feeling dizzy and faint
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Trembling and shaking

Not all of these physical symptoms of stress will happen often, and some symptoms may pass within a few minutes of you first feeling them. It all depends on how often you’re feeling stressed and for how long you have those feelings. However, if they do happen regularly and for long periods, it’s important to discuss them with your GP or a stress treatment specialist. Without support, these symptoms can develop into more serious conditions such as an abnormal heartbeat, skin and hair problems, and obesity.

As well as feeling the physical symptoms of stress, you will also experience psychological symptoms. These symptoms can affect your moods and emotions, and include:

  • Feeling irritable, impatient, and angry (and often taking it out on the people who are closest to you)
  • Feeling as though you can’t ‘switch off’ or relax
  • Feeling overwhelmed and as though you've lost control
  • Racing thoughts
  • Feeling lonely and worthless
  • Low self-esteem
  • Tearfulness – finding that you're crying more than usual
  • Poor concentration and an inability to focus

What causes stress?

Things that put us under pressure often cause stress. This could be the demand of family life, strain of finances, or changes in your life such as a new job, learning to drive, or graduating from university.

In particular, work-related stress is a growing problem. The Health and Safety Executive estimates that every year, around two million people experience a health problem they believe is caused by work. Stress is by far the largest cause of work-related illnesses.

How are finances and stress linked?

Stressing about your finances can have a negative impact on your quality of life and your mental health, including the levels of stress you face every day.

72% of adults report feeling stressed about money, whether it’s worrying about day-to-day expenses and outgoings, or feeling overwhelmed by debt.

Considering the impact that financial worries can have on our mental wellbeing and even our physical health, this figure is incredibly significant.

Stress management techniques

Being able to manage stress in the moment is key to regaining control of your thoughts and feelings.

Dr Natasha Bijlani, a consultant psychiatrist at Priory Hospital Roehampton, recommends the following five techniques to manage the symptoms of stress:

  • Breathe – try to be mindful of your breathing and keep yourself calm. Practise slow and deep breathing techniques so it becomes a habit
  • Sleep – keep up with good sleep habits. Many of us neglect quality sleep, but it's key to functioning well mentally and physically the next day
  • Eat well – having a healthy, balanced diet provides nutrition and energy to get you through the day
  • Create enjoyable experiences – try to surround yourself with experiences you’ll enjoy and provide a sense of purpose
  • Focus on small goals – by having small, achievable goals you can complete, you may rediscover the energy and enthusiasm you were lacking

If these tips don't help, seek support from health professionals like your GP and explore treatment options such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), mindfulness and other therapies that can help treat stress. It's important to recognise the impact that stress can have on your life and take back control.

Personalised stress treatment

At Priory, we offer treatment for stress that's tailored to your needs. Our comprehensive, bespoke packages of care are designed to give you the best possible chance of a healthier, more positive future.

The Priory mental health team will look at your current situation, stress triggers and desired outcomes, working with you to create a stress counselling programme you're happy with.

It's important to know that any level of stress is treatable and you can reduce your symptoms. Stress counselling can teach you how to manage your worries so they don’t overwhelm you.

By seeking specialist stress treatment at Priory, you're already taking action in dealing with a significant mental health challenge and achieving a healthier, more productive life. We'll give you the tools to turn your situation around and maintain a fulfilling life beyond your treatment programme.

Types of stress treatment at Priory

The type of stress treatment programme you’ll benefit most from depends on your personal circumstances, as well as the severity of your stress symptoms. We deliver stress treatment at our Priory sites in a variety of ways:

  • Outpatient treatment – usually undertaken in weekly hour-long therapy sessions at one of our hospitals or wellbeing centres
  • Day care programmes – structured, ongoing support in the form of weekly half-day or full-day therapy sessions
  • Inpatient treatment – an intensive programme undertaken on a residential basis, with 24-hour support

You can access treatment through various payment options, including your personal medical insurance. We are an approved mental healthcare provider for the full range of leading UK medical insurers. These include Bupa, Vitality, Aviva, Cigna and AXA Health.

All of these programmes are delivered in a safe, supportive and highly therapeutic environment. Our stress treatment counselling is available in a range of formats depending on your requirements, including one-to-one therapy, group therapy, and family/couples therapy.

Stress recovery counselling that benefits everyone

Remember that you don’t have to suffer alone, as we are ready to hear your story and understand what you're going through. Our experienced, specially-trained stress therapists can help you to regain a sense of control over whatever life brings.

Opening up to someone about what you're going through can be very powerful. Our compassionate team of mental health experts are here to listen. They can advise on your next steps, informed by their wealth of experience treating people with similar struggles.

Just know that there's no judgement, whatever your circumstances. There's no shame in needing help with addressing stress. It's a debilitating problem for many people and we have seen first-hand the very real effects it can have.

We have helped many people to address the impact of stress. We want to help you do the same, rediscovering your confidence and breaking negative thought patterns. Our stress recovery counselling can help you to enjoy a more positive relationship with yourself and those around you.

Stress treatment near me

We have stress treatment centres located throughout the country, ensuring that you can access the support you need in a location that's convenient for you. To find your nearest treatment centre, please use the search form below.

Contact us to make an enquiry or for more information

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