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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Overview of stress

Tirohanga whānui ki te pōkaikaha

Stressed man at deskMany people use the word stress when the demands of their life seem to be too much to cope with. Everyone copes differently. What one person finds stressful may not be a problem for someone else.

Most of us have symptoms of stress at some stage. Overcoming challenges is just part of life. But long-term stress is bad for our health and most of us want to get some control over it.

Sometimes it is difficult to tell the difference between stress and anxiety. They have similar symptoms. With stress, most people can work out what is causing it. But anxiety often affects all aspects of your life without an obvious cause.


Different people have different symptoms, but there are three broad types.

Physical symptoms

Stress can make our body react in ways we cannot control.

Emotional symptoms

When we are stressed, we often have upsetting feelings or thoughts that we cannot control. Emotional symptoms can include things like:

Behavioural symptoms

When we are stressed, we can start acting in ways we know are harmful but feel that we cannot control our behaviour.

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On the next page: Causes of stress

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed December 2023.


See also:

Anxiety in adults

Page reference: 111510

Review key: HISTS-111503