Inspired to Change

How do you know if you’re too stressed?



Are we living in a more stressful world?

Here at Inspired to Change, we often hear from our clients that they’re feeling stressed – dealing with the kids, family, work and finances – there is a lot to juggle! This often leads to us feeling unable to cope with day to day life and feelings of overwhelm.

Stress seems to be a word that we hear all the time now – even primary aged children in our therapy rooms are telling us that they are feeling stressed.

So are we living more stressful lives now than previous generations or is it just that are we more aware of our mental health and wellbeing?

Talking about stress and the impact it is having on us is a lot more commonplace than it was even a few decades ago. And not just amongst adults but amongst children and teens too.

What do the Statistics Tell Us?

According to the Burnout UK Report by Mental Health UK (2024):

  • 1 in 4 adults in the UK feel unable to manage the stress and pressure in their lives.
  • 91% of adults experienced high or extreme levels of pressure of stress in the last year
  • 1 in 5 workers needed to take time off due to poor mental health caused by pressure or stress in the last year.

These recent statistics suggest that the number of people experiencing high levels of stress with the last year has increased since the Mental Health Foundation’s “Stress: Are we Coping” report in 2018. These worrying statistics have resulted in the UK being deemed at risk of becoming a “burn-out nation” by the media.

What is Stress?

Let’s start by looking at what stress is:

“Stress is the result of an influx of certain chemicals in the brain and body, like adrenalin and cortisol, that occur when some action is required.”

Stress is not necessarily a bad thing or a problem. It’s simply defined as a chemical reaction in our brain that is triggered when some action is required. Stress is a natural human response, and these chemicals (adrenalin and cortisol) are extremely important in helping to energise the body, heighten our focus and courage, and giving us the ability to act when we need to.

When might stress be helpful?

Our brain and body are designed to be able to cope with adrenaline and cortisol in short bursts -these stress chemicals can be a massive help to us in our day to day life. Examples of this include:


Our stress chemicals are ultimately there to keep us safe and alive, and they trigger our innate fight/flight/freeze response which is designed to enable us to survive dangerous situations.


These stress chemicals can also give us the motivation to try new things and to be adventurous. For many people, the feeling of adrenalin can stimulate good feelings too which explains why we might like to drive fast, ride rollercoasters or jump out of aeroplanes!


Our stress chemicals can also help to enhance our performance and give us the energy to do a good job. Most of us will admit to working better when there is certain amount of pressure, accountability or a deadline to meet. This might be coursework or exams, a job interview, a meeting or a presentation.

Personal and Professional Growth

You may have heard the expression “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone”. Stepping out of our comfort zone might include learning new skills, meeting new people, visiting new places, and trying new experiences which can lead to personal and/or professional growth. Taking steps out of our comfort zone will mean that we will experience some discomfort, or stress. However, without that stress, we don’t get the opportunity to learn, develop or grow.

Adrenalin and cortisol are not always bad for us then, and in the short term, they can be extremely helpful. When smaller, day to day stresses occur our body produces just enough of these chemicals to help us to cope with the situation. This helps us to perform better. During these challenging situations the amount of cortisol produced is capped and has an upper limit.

This is sometimes referred to a “challenge stress”. A challenge is something we can tackle and overcome, so our brain looks for solutions to enable us to overcome it. This means that challenge stress can be extremely helpful.

However, long-term high levels of stress, and therefore cortisol, can start to cause problems, hindering our ability to be the best version of ourselves and potentially leading to health issues.

When Does Stress Become a Problem?

Stress as a problem can be defined as:

“The feeling or state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from perceived adverse or demanding circumstances and the subsequent feeling of not being able to cope”

When we experience an excessive or prolonged release of our stress chemicals, it can start to have a negative effect on our brain and body. Rather than the helpful challenge stress mentioned above, we start to experience “threat stress”.

When we experience threat stress our brain and body keeps producing more cortisol, and it’s this constant and prolonged release of cortisol into our body which starts to have a detrimental effect on our ability to cope.

High levels of cortisol have been shown to:

  • increase blood pressure and cholesterol
  • promote anxiety
  • weaken the immune system
  • lower resilience, confidence, and motivation
  • lead to poor concentration
  • impact our ability to function as our normal self.

This can eventually lead to poor mental and physical health. So, whilst it is true that some stress can be good for us and improve our performance (challenge stress), it is also true that excessive or prolonged stress (threat stress) can be very damaging and significantly impact our ability to function in our day-to-day life.

    Signs and Symptoms of Stress

    When we experience periods of prolonged and excessive stress we will start to notice the impact in four key areas of our day-to-day life. It will impact:


    • How we think (cognitive symptoms)
    • How we feel (emotional symptoms)
    • How we behave (psychological / behaviour symptoms)
    • How our body functions (physical symptoms).

    *Stress Symptoms Image Credit: Mental Health in the Workplace

     There are 40 stress symptoms on the graphic above, broken down into the 4 key areas, this only includes the most common signs and symptoms of stress. Most of us have experienced a significant number of those symptoms at some point in our life which just goes to show how common and normal stress is.

    However, whilst these symptoms are both common and normal to experience it doesn’t mean that they are easy to cope with. At best they feel uncomfortable and at worst they can be very debilitating and have a serious impact on our physical and mental health, especially when experienced intensely or frequently.

    We all experience stress differently, and we aren’t all going to experience all of these symptoms all of the time. There will be some signs and symptoms on that list that feel more familiar to you than others and you may find that your early warning signs start in one particularly quadrant. It can be helpful to tick those symptoms that start to occur as your stress levels start to increase, and perhaps notice the symptoms that come in as your stress levels increase further.

    Here at Inspired to Change we help our clients to take back control of their stress responses so that they can navigate life’s challenges with more ease. Understanding our own stress responses, and those of others around us, is just the starting point to helping our brain choose more helpful ways forward in difficult situations.

    Our Top Tips for Reducing Stress

    If you’ve noticed that you’ve been feeling stressed recently, or if you ticked off a few of the stress symptoms above, take a look at these blog posts with tips for reducing stress:

    Top Tips for Reducing Stress

    Top Tips for Reducing Work Stress 

    Top Tips for Reducing Exam Stress

    Do you need help to take back control from stress?

    And if you’d like some help taking back control from stress, you’re in the right place. Here at Inspired to Change we are experts at reducing stress and anxiety. We offer a free initial consultation where we’ll explain more about how our brain works, how stress and anxiety are created and why are brain can get stuck in our stress responses. We’ll also talk through what you need to do to move forward, and we’ll explain how solution focused hypnotherapy can help with this.

    If you’d like to reduce stress and become the confident, motivated, happy version of you, get in touch with one of our Inspired to Change associates to book your free initial consultation today.

    Inspired to Change Hypnotherapists are all recognised by the National Council for Hypnotherapy, the UK’s leading not-for-profit hypnotherapy professional association.

    To find out how you can train as a solution focused hypnotherapist click here for our hypnotherapy school information.