Mental health

Understanding stress, its causes and symptoms

Stress is a common problem which most people will experience at some point in their lifetime. So here is our guide to stress, some potential factors that can cause it, and the ways it can be managed along with prescription medicine for stress.

What is stress?

Stress is common and something which many of us experience on a regular basis. It’s the feeling of being under too much mental or emotional pressure and it typically refers to feeling pressured in certain situations or events.

Being under pressure is an inevitable part of life, and it can be motivational. However, too much pressure can lead to stress which can ultimately have a negative impact on your health.

There are many different symptoms related to ongoing stress, which can be mental or behavioural. It’s also possible that you might experience physical symptoms including headaches, tiredness, or an upset stomach. When feeling stressed, you may find it difficult to sleep or eat properly, which can add to worsening health. Stress and anxiety can cause the release of the hormones adrenaline and cortisol, which are a factor in many of these symptoms.

Longer term stress has also been linked to conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), cardiovascular disease , and even stomach ulcers.

What triggers stress?

There are many possible factors which could trigger stress, including:

  • Problems at work
  • Concerns about money
  • Relationship issues
  • Bereavement

Many of us will be experiencing higher than normal stress levels because of the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on our everyday lives and our families. The true ramifications of the pandemic on our general health may be unknown for many years.

How is stress treated?

There are many different strategies to help manage the symptoms of stress.

It can help to talk about your feelings with a friend, family member, or health professional. If you’re feeling vulnerable or can’t talk about your feelings with someone close to you, there are organisations like the Samaritans who will talk with you in confidence

Your resilience against the effects of stress can be strengthened in the longer term by making some changes to your lifestyle such as:

  • Exercising regularly
  • Eating healthily
  • Avoiding unhealthy habits – by stopping smoking and moderating your alcohol intake
  • Making connections with others to help develop your social and support network

Breathing exercises and meditation can also help you manage the feeling of stress through controlled relaxation. For them to be truly effective, it’s best to make breathing exercises part of your daily routine. Making personal time for yourself like this can also help lower stress levels.

If your stress persists and is affecting your quality of life, then you should talk to your doctor. If it’s appropriate, they may recommend a talking therapy such as counselling or CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), and they are also able to consider prescribing a medicine to help with any relevant underlying conditions, such as an anxiety disorder or depression. There are also many non-prescription medicines available for stress-related conditions such as IBS.

How can Pharmacy2U help?

If you have regular NHS prescriptions, Pharmacy2U is a convenient way to obtain your medication. You can order what you need from us or from your GP, our pharmacists will dispense your prescription, and the medicines will be delivered by Royal Mail, for free. Registration is simple and only takes a few minutes.

If the coronavirus pandemic has made you feel more stressed than usual, check out this helpful  article from mental health charity, Mind.


Phil Day By Phil Day Superintendent Pharmacist Published 01/09/2020