Stress is the body’s response to pressure. Life events and situations can cause stress in many different ways. A sense of anxiety is often triggered by new or unexpected experiences that threaten our sense of self. It is also triggered when we feel powerless over a situation.

Stress affects us all differently. Our ability to cope can be influenced by our genetics, early life experiences, personality, and economic and social circumstances.

In response to stress, our bodies release stress hormones that trigger a fight or flight response and activate our immune system. As a result, we are able to respond to dangerous situations more quickly.

There are times when this stress response can be helpful. We can use it to push through fear or pain to run a marathon or deliver a speech, for example. After a stressful event, our stress hormones usually return to normal quickly, and no lasting effects will be felt.

However, too much stress can cause adverse effects. It can leave us in a permanent stage of fight or flight, leaving us overwhelmed or unable to cope. Long term, this can affect our physical and mental health.

Why do we get stressed?

Stress can be caused by several things, including bereavement, divorce or separation, losing a job, or unexpected financial difficulties. Your mental health can also be negatively affected by work-related stress. Approximately 24 workdays are lost to ill health due to work-related stress.

Even positive life changes, such as moving to a bigger house, gaining a promotion, or going on holiday, can cause stress. In these situations, if you feel stressed, you may not understand why or be unwilling to share your feelings.

Signs and symptoms of stress

Stress can affect our emotions, our body and how we behave, in lots of different ways. Sometimes when we are stressed, we might be able to tell right away. But at other times, we might keep going without recognising the signs.

How you might feel:

  • anxious
  • afraid
  • angry or aggressive
  • sad
  • irritable
  • frustrated
  • depressed

These feelings can sometimes produce physical symptoms, making you feel even worse.

How your body might react:

  • headaches
  • nausea
  • indigestion
  • digestive problems such as constipation, bloating or diarrhoea
  • shallow breathing or hyperventilating
  • sweating
  • heart palpitations
  • aches and pains

How you might behave:

  • withdraw from other people or snap at them
  • be indecisive or inflexible
  • be tearful
  • have problems getting to sleep or staying asleep
  • experience sexual problems
  • smoke, drink alcohol or take drugs more than usual

Managing stress

There are some things you can try to feel less tense and overwhelmed if you’re feeling stressed.

Recognise when stress is a problem

It is crucial to link the physical and emotional symptoms you are encountering to the stressors you are dealing with. Do not disregard physical indicators like tense muscles, fatigue, headaches, or migraines.

Consider the root causes of your stress. Categorize them into problems with feasible solutions, issues that will resolve over time, and matters beyond your control. Seize control by taking gradual steps towards enhancing the aspects you can influence.

Develop a strategy to tackle the issues within your control. This may entail establishing practical goals for yourself and prioritizing essential obligations. If you feel overwhelmed, seek assistance and decline tasks that you cannot manage.

Think about where you can make changes

Are you overwhelmed with tasks? Would it be beneficial to delegate some responsibilities to others? Is it possible to approach tasks in a more relaxed manner? It might be necessary to prioritize and rearrange your schedule in order to avoid taking on too much at once.

Build supportive relationships

Identify individuals within your close circle, such as friends or family members, who can provide assistance and valuable guidance to aid you in effectively managing stress. Engaging in social activities, such as joining a club or enrolling in a course, can broaden your social connections and motivate you to explore new experiences. Additionally, participating in volunteer work can alter your outlook and positively influence your emotional state.

Eat healthily

Eating nutritiously can enhance your emotional state. Consuming adequate vitamins, minerals, and hydration can positively impact your mental health.

Be aware of smoking and drinking

Reduce or eliminate smoking and drinking if possible. While they may appear to alleviate stress, they can exacerbate issues. Alcohol and caffeine have the potential to heighten feelings of anxiety.


Regular physical activity has the potential to effectively alleviate the impact of stress by triggering the release of endorphins, which in turn enhance your emotional well-being. Although finding the motivation to exercise may be challenging when experiencing stress, even engaging in a small amount of physical activity can have a significant positive impact. As an illustration, dedicating 15-20 minutes to walking three times a week can make a noticeable difference.

Take time out to relax

It is essential to allocate some time for relaxation and engage in self-care activities, which involve doing positive things for oneself. Maintaining a balance between fulfilling responsibilities towards others and taking care of oneself is crucial for minimizing stress levels.

If you are experiencing trouble sleeping, you may attempt to decrease your caffeine intake and refrain from excessive screen usage prior to going to bed.

Be kind to yourself

It’s important to maintain a sense of perspective and avoid being overly critical of yourself. Take the time to focus on the positive aspects of your life and make a list of things that bring you a sense of gratitude.

Build a support network

Studies indicate that a strong support system can enhance resilience and facilitate the management of stress. Trusted individuals providing support can effectively ease the burden of stressful circumstances.

This could be;

Family and friends – Sharing your emotions with those who are close to you can have a significant impact. By expressing how you feel, they may help in alleviating some of the stressors you are experiencing.

Getting support at work – It could be from your supervisor, HR department, union representatives, or employee assistance program. Your health and wellness are valuable, and employers should prioritize them.

Getting support and university or college – You may receive assistance from your tutors, student union, or student services.

Peer support – If you are facing difficulties, seeking support from individuals who share similar emotions or have gone through similar experiences can be beneficial. You can opt for in-person interactions by joining a peer support group, or you can connect with others through online communities such as Mind’s Side by Side

How can I help myself if I am stressed?

There are currently no targeted therapies for stress, however, there are treatments available for addressing certain indicators and manifestations of stress. These interventions can be beneficial if you are struggling to effectively cope with stress on your own.

Speak to your GP – It may be beneficial to consult with your GP if:

– You are under a significant amount of stress.

– You have been experiencing prolonged stress.

– Your stress levels are impacting your physical or mental well-being.

Medication – There is currently no designated medication exclusively for stress. However, there are medications available that can assist in alleviating or controlling certain indications and manifestations of stress.

For instance, your physician may suggest prescribing:

  1. Sleeping pills or mild tranquilizers if you are encountering difficulties with sleep.
  2. Antidepressants if you are simultaneously experiencing depression or anxiety in addition to stress.
  3. Medication to address any physical symptoms associated with stress, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or high blood pressure.

Talking therapy – Talking with a trained professional could help you find ways to deal with stress. And it can help you become more aware of your own thoughts and feelings.

You might also find talking therapies helpful if your stress has caused other mental health problems.

Complementary and alternative therapies – Certain complementary and alternative therapies can be beneficial in managing the signs and symptoms of stress. These may encompass:

– Acupuncture

– Aromatherapy

– Various herbal remedies and cannabis-based medicines

– Hypnotherapy

– Massage

– Tai Chi

– Yoga and meditation.

Useful contacts

Mind have some useful contacts on their website to get further help and support;

If you would like to talk to us about Mental Health training, please call us on 01276 586943 or email us at