Our bodies are hard-wired to be ready for ‘flight-or-fight’.
When you jump at a loud noise, or feel nervous with ‘butterflies’ in your stomach, it's the body’s natural stress response to keep you safe.
But what happens if your flight-or-fight reaction stays switched on?
“It's a wonderful adaptation should you come across a bear. But too much of a good thing and you're in trouble" - Prof Robert Sapolsky
Normally, once a perceived threat has passed, your body relaxes: adrenaline and cortisol levels drop, and your heart rate and blood pressure return to normal.
But with chronic stress, your stress levels stay raised for a prolonged period, and this is damaging to your physical as well as mental health.
Chronic stress increases blood pressure and suppresses the immune system. And it increases your risk of heart disease, diabetes, memory problems and depression.
Learn to allow yourself a brief pause between tasks. You might only need to take 5 or 10 minutes - and it's a chance to take stock of your main priorities, and catch your breath.
Take a day off from work or chores, and spend time doing something you enjoy. Go for an outing, read a book, take some exercise, or even catch up on sleep.
Taking a break from the cause of your stress will help you to put it into perspective.
As well as emotional support, your loved ones may be able to offer practical help - lending a hand with DIY, cleaning the car, or childcare, for example.
Breathing exercises, meditation, and yoga all help to assist relaxation. Making time in your weekly schedule for activities you enjoy can play a powerful part in adjusting chronic stress levels.
Caffeine has the same effect on your body as stress and anxiety - releasing stress hormones and raising your heart rate and blood pressure. So avoid reaching for a cup of coffee when you're under pressure - rather than feeling calmer, you could end up feeling worse.
If you're stressed and busy at work, you may feel you can’t take time off.
And if you're the frazzled parent of young children it's easy to put your own wellbeing last.
But if you fall ill from stress or exhaustion, you'll be off sick for much longer.
It's important to look after yourself!
Learning to manage the stress in daily life will help to keep you well, and bring you peace of mind.
Talk to your manager or employer at work. They may be able to help you address the causes of your stress head-on.
Work-related stress, depression or anxiety accounted for 12.5 million lost working days in the UK in 2016/17.
(Source: HSE - Work-related Stress, Depression or Anxiety Statistics in Great Britain 2017)
The other articles in our Healthy Living section show how eating well, getting enough sleep, and taking plenty of exercise have a positive effect on all aspects of life.
If you're feeling under pressure, it's more important than ever not to overlook these simple and essential ways to boost your wellbeing.
From brocolli and spinach to oranges and dark chocolate, many delicious, healthy foods are rich in vitamins and minerals that help to combat stress. This Cosmo article on stress at Christmas lists the feelgood foods that will help you all year round.