Stress is a human mechanism to increase our effectiveness – even when we may not be on top-form.

Stress is good until you have too much of it

Think of stress as being like the carbon-based fuels most of us still have in our cars: We have to have some fuel – but if we have too much, the spark plugs flood and the car won’t go!

Fuel is vital; too much fuel and we aren’t going anywhere.

Stress is vital; too much stress and we struggle. And too much stress can shorten our lives.

Excess-stress is often noticed as a feeling of just not being able to cope.

Yet, the term ‘stress’ is often used in a negative context – that’s because many people confuse ‘excess-stress’ with the stress we all need.

So, at NISAD we look at ‘excess-stress’ – which is what makes us feel like what we have to do is just too much.

Stress and anxiety are often, erroneously, used interchangeably so it’s useful to know the difference.

What’s the difference between stress and anxiety?


is the body’s natural response to life’s demands.

A short-term stress response to a situation can be positive – such as giving you that extra push to meet a deadline that you thought impossible, to step up your efforts to make the last train on time, or to prepare thoroughly for an important presentation.  Stress helps you to rise to the challenge and then dissipates once the situation is resolved.  

Moderate and short-lived stress can make us feel motivated, alert or ‘on the ball’.

Our bodies are designed to handle moments of stress followed by periods of rest and recovery. 

It’s when stress becomes excessive that we can feel overwhelmed or unable to cope.



is the body’s reaction to perceived threats. 

It can range from feeling a bit on edge all the way to full-blown panic.  There might be physical symptoms such as sensations in the chest or stomach, a faster heartbeat, sweaty palms, quickened breathing, feeling hot or nauseous.  There might be a racing mind, an inability to focus or an overload of worrying thoughts.

Along with the symptoms, there is usually a sense of dread.  It might be a fear of something awful happening, of not being able to cope or of being judged by ourselves or other people.

When the threat has gone, anxiety can shift its focus to another perceived threat, or it can sometimes linger for no clear reason.  When this fear of what we think might happen in the future is very strong it can become overwhelming and paralysing.

When does stress become damaging?

What is excess stress?

The effects of excess stress can be destructive and harmful.

How much stress we can cope with is individual and our resilience to stress is made up of many different factors.

Once we find ourselves in an excess-stress situation (maybe the feeling that you can’t deliver all the constant ‘want it yesterday’ demands of a critical boss) we go past the point of stress spiking up our performance, and instead it impedes us and makes us less able and productive.

Long periods of excess-stress can lead to anxiety and other serious negative impacts on both our mental and physical health – including shortening our lifespan.

Symptoms of excess-stress

This is for information purposes if you feel you may be experiencing excess-stress.  Having any of these symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean you are experiencing excess-stress and there may be other reasons.  If you are concerned we would always recommend you check with your doctor to investigate possible reasons.


Rapid heartbeat and shallow breathing
Muscle tension
Chronic pain e.g. ongoing backache
Digestive problems
Susceptibility to illness
Decreased energy
Loss of sexual desire
Chest pain
High blood pressure


Excessive worry
Increased irritability
Frequent low mood
Easily frustrated
Low motivation
Difficulty relaxing
Feeling of losing control or wanting to take control



Over- or under-eating
Increased use of alcohol, drugs or cigarettes
Poor concentration
Forgetfulness and/or disorganisation
Poor judgement
Social withdrawal

So what can we do about excess-stress?

How can our ELK-Health stress programme and our ELK-Health clinics help?

Our ELK-Health programme “Erg” will help people all over the world manage their stress – and turn it into a positive part of their lives.

Delivered and supported by an app with games, it is engaging way of learning skills to manage stress.

Through our ELK clinics (online or face-to-face) you’ll be able to work with a qualified therapist who can help you learn to change how you react to ‘too much stress for too long’ and improve your resilience.
ELK-Health programmes and clinics use science-based approaches, supporting you as you change your behaviour and improve your emotional and physical health and well-being.

Erg app

ELK-Health’s online programme for managing stress delivered via an app with games.

Stress online clinic

ELK-Health’s online clinic for help with stress
Available anywhere

Stress f2f clinic

Learn how to manage stress skilfully with one of ELK-Health’s face-to-face clinics