Understanding Stress - What is it & how it affect us?


April marks Stress Awareness Month, an annual campaign to raise awareness of the ‘modern-day stress epidemic’ we all find ourselves living in.  The last two years have been especially challenging for many and, as we emerge from the pandemic, it’s vital that our community support continues. 

Without community support (and in this I include a network of friends and/or family), we can feel lonely and isolated, which in turn lowers our wellbeing, impacts our mental health and can lead to mental illness. That is why ‘Community’ is the theme for Stress Awareness Month this year. 


One of the positives to emerge from this strange situation has been the community spirit and support shown by so many to so many. At FBF Collective, we cherish the times the team can come together, find out more about each other, and feel inspired by how much potential there is to learn from each of the team members’ expertise. 

Built for you 

Are you part of a community or club where you’re interacting with people who have an interest in common with yours?

Stress isn’t avoidable but it is manageable. A key action to minimise the risk of stress-related illness is to identify stress as early as possible: Today we discuss three key areas of stress:

  1. What is stress 
  2. Why it’s important to understand stress and 
  3. How stress affects us

What is stress?

Stress is the body's reaction to feeling threatened, under pressure, or a situation that we don't feel we can manage or control. It is not necessarily a ‘bad’ thing, as without this ability to feel stress, humankind wouldn’t have survived. Our cavemen ancestors, for example, used the onset of stress to alert them to a potential danger. When stressed, the body thinks it is under attack and switches to ‘fight or flight’ mode, releasing a complex mix of hormones and chemicals such as adrenaline and cortisol to prepare the body for physical action. This causes several reactions, from blood being diverted to muscles to shutting down unnecessary bodily functions such as digestion. That heart pounding, fast breathing sensation is the adrenaline; as well as a boost of energy, it enables us to focus our attention so we can quickly respond to the situation.



Built for you

In the modern world, the ‘fight or flight’ mode can still help us survive dangerous situations, such as reacting swiftly to a person running in front of our car by slamming on the brakes. The challenge nowadays is when our body goes into a state of stress in inappropriate situations or is on constant alert for extended periods of time – which can be detrimental to our health.

When blood flow is going only to the most important muscles needed to fight or flee, brain function is minimised. This can lead to an inability to ‘think straight’; a state that is a great hindrance in both our work and home lives. 
Built for you




Understanding Stress

 Every person reacts to stress differently, in a ‘fight, flight or freeze’ response:

  • Fight – you may feel agitated and aggressive towards others; due to your bodies’ natural reaction being “fight”.  A helpful reaction to ward off predators, but in unnecessary situations, can negatively affect relationships and reputations.
  • Flight - some of us avoid our stressors. Removing ourselves from the situation instead of tackling it, a sign of the “flight” survival instinct, can be a very important tactic in everyday life, e.g. removing ourselves from a situation as a parent of a child is sometimes vital to avoid losing one’s temper, or removing oneself from family debates that could otherwise lead to irreparable rifts. However, we often also need to face into the cause of the stress to prevent it from continuing to escalate and stress us.
  • Freeze - the energy mobilised by the perceived threat gets “locked” into the nervous system and we ‘freeze’. This response sometimes reveals itself when we breathe. Holding our breath and shallow breathing are both forms of freeze. The occasional deep sigh is the nervous system catching up on its oxygen intake.


What response do you adopt in stressful situations?

Everyone experiences stress in different ways, and it often targets the weakest part of our physiology or character e.g. if you are prone to headaches or eczema, this may flare up. If you have low levels of patience or tolerance for others, this will be the first area to present under times of stress. These changes may be emotional, physical or behavioural, or a combination of all three. So, the key thing is to look out for negative changes of any kind, which might be acting as early warning signs - take a look at our chart below.







Chest pain

Memory problems 

Increase intake in alcohol, cigarettes and caffeine to relax


Rapid heartbeat 

Poor judgement 

Isolating yourself from others 


Aches and pains 

Inability to concentrate 

Sleeping too little or too much 

Fatalistic Thinking 

Frequent colds 

‘Brain fog’



Skin Complaints 


Loss of sense of humour



Starting many tasks but achieving little 



High blood pressure 



Feeling Overwhelmed 









Of course, it’s important to remember we all experience ‘bad days’, so we are really talking about situations where people display these negative changes for a period of time (e.g. 5 days in a row). 

Either way, working to understanding how to manage your stress is key for overall health and wellness.


Written by Abigail Attenborough (ANutr) 

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