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Stress and how to manage it

Stress is an unavoidable part of life. The World Health Organisation defines stress as a:

‘state of worry or mental tension caused by a difficult situation’

and, as this definition suggests, stress can result from any number of issues. Most of us will recognise stressful elements to our work, social or family lives even if we don’t consider ourselves to be stressed. 

The feeling of stress is a natural reaction that is intended to spur us on to tackle the challenges we face in life. Problems with stress generally arise when those challenges are not easily tackled and so the feeling of stress persists for long periods. 

Symptoms of Stress

A stressed lady

Just as we all feel stressed by different things, so we all react to that stress in different ways, but finding a way to manage stress is really important for both our mental and physical health.

Unmanaged it can lead to feelings of anxiety and depression, disrupts sleep and can cause the debilitating symptoms of shortness of breath, palpitations, and dizziness that are typical of panic attacks. 

Beyond these psychological symptoms, stress can also cause physical symptoms such as headaches, heartburn and indigestion, raised blood pressure, disturbance of the menstrual cycle and weight loss. 

It may also make existing health problems worse, for example many sufferers of skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis will notice that their symptoms are worsened by stress, or people with breathing issues such as COPD or asthma may find that these are worse at times of high stress. 


Problems that can lead from stress

A man drinking and smoking

On top of the physical and mental health issues that can result directly from stress, there are a range of problems that can result from the way we react. 

Many people cope by drinking more alcohol, smoking, comfort eating or misusing other substances. 

This can lead to a whole raft of other potential health issues such as lung disease, liver disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes, as well as the potential social and psychological problems that can accompany substance misuse and addiction. 


Managing Stress

A stress free lady

Taking control or 'Decision Latitude'

Managing stress is usually easier said than done. This is particularly true because what people tend to find most stressful are situations that they cannot take control of for themselves. In the academic literature on the topics of stress and burnout, this is sometimes described as a lack of ‘decision latitude’.

Decision latitude is primarily an issue around workplace stress but the principle behind it can be applied to all aspects of life. For example, what tends to cause the highest degree of workplace stress is when workers have a high workload but they do not have the freedom to choose how they manage that workload. If the same worker is given the same workload but is given the opportunity to decide for themselves how to manage their work, then they generally feel much less stressed. 

Example of Decision Latitude

A landmark study by the Ford car company found that workers on a production line who performed a single task all day long were much more stressed than those who worked as a team to produce the whole car from start to finish, even though the production targets were the same for both groups.

What this tells us is that gaining a sense of control is crucial for reducing stress. 

Even if this is not immediately possible – as is often the case with difficult life circumstances – then making a plan about how you might take control, for example what steps you could take and when you might take them, is usually psychological beneficial. 

On a more basic level, this is why ‘to do’ lists are such an effective way of managing stressful situations. 

Protective withdrawal

The proactive mindset of decision latitude to managing stress is in contrast to the state of ‘protective withdrawal’ that many of us enter when confronted by challenges.

Protective withdrawal is the state we go into when we try to forget about our difficulties by distracting ourselves and hoping that the problem goes away. 

This is the state we are in when we spend an hour scrolling through Facebook instead of working to meet a deadline. Protective withdrawal might relieve stress for the moment, but it tends to compound problems in the medium to longer term.

There will of course be times when there is simply not much we can do to take control of a situation – the serious illness of a loved one for example, or a financial pressure that simply can’t be fixed quickly. Or often we just need a way to relieve the short-term stresses that are part of daily life. 

This is when we need the strategies for stress management that we should all build into our daily routines. 

Tips to reduce stress

two people working out and catching up

The ideal stress management techniques allow us to clear our mind and focus on something outside of the challenging situation, whilst also delivering us a sense of satisfaction and achievement. People will often talk about mindfulness techniques and meditation in this space, but old fashioned hobbies fulfil this purpose perfectly. 

Creative Projects

Engaging in creative projects like art, DIY, or playing a musical instrument all deliver that sense of peace and satisfaction.


Exercise is perhaps the most powerful technique we can employ. Numerous studies now show that regular exercise is as effective, or more effective, than the use of antidepressants for improving mood and it brings with it all the physical health benefits of being active. This is true at all stages of life – from childhood to old age, and during pregnancy and the post-partum period too.

Social Interaction

Lastly, don’t forget that we are intensely social creatures and we thrive by nurturing the relationships we have with those we are close to. Social isolation is a real threat to health, with several studies showing that it significantly increases the risk of death from any cause. So any activity you undertake that also increases your levels of social interaction will benefit both mind and body. 


Stress is a real threat to our health and one that many of us just try to ignore. Recognising that it might be behind your low mood, regular headaches, or abdominal discomfort is important because it is only by recognising it that you can take steps towards managing it. In many cases, when a physical symptoms lacks an obvious medical cause, stress is at its heart.

Monitor your health with One Day Tests

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Don't let health worries add to your stress levels. At One Day Tests we offer a range of blood tests that enable you to monitor and understand your health like never before. 

Whether it’s for routine health checks, managing a chronic condition, or just staying informed about your body, our range of blood tests provides the convenience, accuracy, and peace of mind you deserve.

You have the chose to visit one of our clinics or you can opt for the convenience and comfort of using our at-home blood test kits

For additional assistance, guidance or queries regarding our custom blood tests, do not hesitate to get in touch. Our team is here to help you with any questions and provide you with the information you need. You can contact us at 0845 527 07 67 , send an email to , or reach out to us via WhatsApp.

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