Managing stress is crucial for maintaining good mental health and preventing more significant problems in the future. Stress makes you feel like you’re under too much mental or emotional pressure. You may feel like the world is on your shoulders and it can affect us all. But if you’re under stress for long periods of time, you may end up with poor mental health.
Stress is a heightened sense of pressure, which can affect any person at any stage. You might be under pressure or facing uncertainty and only the person experiencing stress can determine whether it’s present and how severe it feels.
It’s important to support others when talking to people about stress by actively listening, validating how they’re feeling by trying to understand and recognise their experience, asking the person what they think might help reduce the pressure they’re experiencing, supporting them to seek professional help.
Causes and symptoms of stress
There are many causes of stress: it could be money or relationship problems, being unemployed, physical illness or going through a life-changing event. Sometimes you might be burning out and you don’t realise the signs yet.
To understand the cause of stress, it is important to identify its triggers. Managing stress is easier when you know when to expect it. These triggers may be environmental, emotional, or cognitive.
- Environmental triggers could be too much noise, a cluttered workspace, or feeling pressured for time.
- Emotional triggers could arise from conflicts, disappointments, or fears.
- Cognitive triggers may include negative self-talk, unrealistic expectations, or feeling overwhelmed.
Stress can manifest itself physically and emotionally and can also affect our behaviour and thinking:
- Physical symptoms might include muscle aches, dizziness, chest pain, nausea and headaches.
- Emotional symptoms might include feeling irritable, overwhelmed, angry, restless and scared.
- Behavioural symptoms might include avoidance, changes in eating habits and using alcohol.
- Cognitive symptoms might include racing thoughts, memory lapse and indecisiveness.
- Other symptoms might include dry mouth or shortness of breath, bowel or bladder problems and sweating.
Myths about stress
Common myths about stress
‘Stress is the same for everyone.’
Each one of us experiences stress in a different manner and sensation. Even in the same situation, people may respond differently.
Figure out what your top stress triggers are.
‘Stress is a sign
Stress is a natural part of being human, and admitting when you’re struggling with it is okay. Seeking help or support is a sign of strength, not weakness, and no one should feel judged.
‘Stress is a
Relying on stress as a motivator can have serious consequences. People react to stress differently, with some thriving and others overwhelmed, causing them to freeze under pressure.
‘No symptoms, no stress!’
Stress can be hard to recognise as it doesn’t always show obvious symptoms, especially if exposed to stressors for extended periods. It’s always present, even if we don’t feel it.
‘Ignoring stress will
make it go away.’
Ignoring stress can lead to more significant problems in the future. If left unchecked, stress can lead to various health problems, including weight gain, high blood pressure, heart disease, insomnia, anxiety, digestive issues, and a weakened immune system.
‘Stress can be avoided.’
Stress cannot be eliminated. However, stress management techniques and resilience can help you cope better with inevitable stressors. It is your reactions that determine whether or not you feel stress.
Managing stress and its symptoms
If you are experiencing symptoms of stress, there are many activities you can do to reduce the feelings. It is important to recognise the symptoms of stress and take the necessary steps to ensure your wellbeing.
- Establish your priorities: Balancing competing priorities can cause stress and impact your mental health. List all your tasks and prioritise them, then you can gradually work through the list. Being able to visually see your priorities may reduce some of the anxiety around them, too.
- Practising mindfulness and meditation: Those practices can reduce stress by calming the mind. Focusing on the present can break the cycle of anxious thoughts and promote inner peace.
- Healthy eating habits: A balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can regulate mood and energy levels. Avoiding excessive caffeine and sugar can help reduce stress and mood swings.
- Social connections: Cultivate and nurture your relationships. Spending time with friends and loved ones provides emotional support and a sense of belonging, reducing feelings of isolation and stress. Talking to someone you trust about how you feel is invaluable. Confide in trusted loved ones about your experiences and emotions through a short conversation, letter, or text message.
- Get enough sleep: Prioritise quality sleep to allow your body and mind to recover. A well-rested body is better equipped to handle stress.
- Spend time exercising or outdoors: Going outside and exercising boosts endorphins and helps put things into perspective. You don’t have to do any strenuous exercise, even a short walk around your local park will work towards reducing symptoms of stress.
- Focus on breathing: Practicing deep, intentional breathing can help reduce stress and promote relaxation.
- Make time for hobbies: Managing stress can be all-consuming, make sure you set time aside to do something that only makes you happy and improves your wellbeing. If you can’t think of anything, you could join a local club, read a good book, or make something delicious in the kitchen.
- Accept the things out of your control: It’s not always possible to change a difficult situation. Accepting that life is unpredictable and out of control allows us to move forward. Instead, focus on the things we can control.
Explore different techniques to discover what works best for you. Combining a mix of these strategies can help you navigate life’s challenges with resilience and to better cope with stress. If stress overwhelms you, don’t hesitate to seek support.
Our Advice and Support Service is open Monday to Friday, 10 am to 4 pm, where advisers can signpost you to local support that most fits your needs, including our own Change Mental Health services. We offer initial advice on money worries and help to deal with emergencies.
Contact 0808 8010 515, email us at email@example.com or fill out the enquiry form on the Advice and Support Service page.