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Why do we feel stressed?

Stress is a common word that we hear a lot. We all seem to know what it’s like to feel stressed but what exactly does it mean?

Stress is a normal response to everyday pressures. Daily needs and demands such as responsibilities, decisions, relationships, and money can cause stress.

Stressors trigger the release of hormones in the body – adrenaline and cortisol.


Adrenaline is a fight-or-flight hormone. It causes an increase in heart rate, breathing and blood sugar levels. It also diverts blood flow from your digestive system to your muscles.


Cortisol is a stress hormone, triggered when one feels threatened. It directs energy from other parts of the body to the brain to deal with the threat. After the danger has passed, cortisol levels should decrease and return to a normal state. However, if one is under constant stress, excessive cortisol could lead to health problems such as rapid weight gain and high blood pressure etc.

Fight, Flight or Freeze: The three natural coping responses


Fight is a response to literally fight the danger or perceived danger.


This means you are preparing to run away from the stressor.


This means you are unable to respond in the presence of the stressor.

Did you know that stress can be triggered by both positive and negative events in our lives? Yes, even happy events – because they could still bring about big changes that result in new demands to fulfil.

Stress is caused by our perception or evaluation of situations; when one deems the event to be threatening and beyond their ability to cope with it, they would become stressed. For example, someone may view a new job as stressful, but another may see it as a challenge and feels excited about it.

Common causes include:

Death of loved ones
Environmental Triggers
Excessive noise
Traffic jams
Time pressure
Stress faced by people around you
Loss of income
Work & Study
New job
Challenges at work e.g. not being able to meet deadlines
Exams and assignments
Health & Safety

Everyone responds to stress with different levels of intensity. Your body sends out various physical, cognitive, behavioural, and emotional warning signs, such as:



(How your body might react)
  • Headaches, migraine
  • Stomach aches
  • Muscle tension
  • Fast heartbeats
  • Sweaty palms
  • Trembling
  • Chronic fatigue



(How you might think)
  • Poor concentration
  • Forgetfulness
  • Difficulty in organising and making decisions



(How you might behave)
  • Acting in a defensive, aggressive or impulsive manner
  • Nervous habits (e.g. stammering or biting nails)
  • Avoidance of tasks
  • Withdrawal from social activities
  • Drinking or smoking excessively
  • Sleep problems
  • Crying
  • Loss of appetite or overeating



(How you might feel)
  • Anxiety and being bad-tempered
  • Excessive worrying, moody
  • Sadness, fear
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Restlessness or irritability

Is stress good?

Some stress can be good for you!
Positive stress or also known as eustress
helps you to cope with challenging but
important life events.

Is stress bad?

It’s bad when you live under very
stressful conditions for long
periods of time. It may harm your
health, your relationships, and
your enjoyment of life.

How does prolonged stress affect us?

Prolonged stress exposes our body constantly to the effects of adrenaline or cortisol and may lead to health problems:

Decreased immunity levels, thereby increasing our chances of getting colds and other illnesses
Worsening of asthmatic conditions
Increased blood pressure that will increase the risk for stroke and heart attacks, and even kidney problems
Digestive problems like stomach ulcers, indigestion, constipation or even diarrhoea
Nervous breakdown or mental illnesses such as depression

How to manage stress

Since it is not entirely possible to cut out all stress from our lives, it is more important – and realistic – that we learn how to cope with it. You have the power to keep your stress under control!

Choose a stress-busting power that works for you.

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