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Posted: 2nd November 2022


What is stress?

Stress is how we react when we feel under pressure or threatened. It usually happens when we are in a situation that we don't feel we can manage or control. Everyone experiences stress differently. 

When we experience stress, it can be as:

  • An individual, for example when you have lots of responsibilities that you are struggling to manage
  • Part of a group, for example if your family is going through a difficult time
  • Part of your community, for example if you belong to a religious group that is experiencing discrimination
  • A member of society, for example during natural disasters or events like the coronavirus pandemic

1Is stress a mental health problem?

Stress is not normally considered a mental health problem. But it is connected to our mental health in several ways:

  • Stress can cause mental health problems. And it can make existing problems worse. For example, if you experience lots of stress, this might lead you to develop a mental health problem like anxiety or depression. Or a traumatic period of stress might lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Mental health problems can cause stress. You might find coping with the day-to-day symptoms of your mental health problem is stressful. You may also feel stressed about managing medication, healthcare appointments or other treatments.
  • You might use recreational drugs or alcohol to cope with stress. This could also affect your mental health, and cause further stress.

2Tips for managing stress

  • Be kind to yourself. Learning to be kinder to yourself can help with how you feel in different situations. Try to take breaks in your day for things you enjoy. And reward yourself for your achievements, even if they seem small.
  • Try to find time to relax. This might feel hard if you can't do anything to stop a situation that is making you stressed. But if you can allow yourself a short break, this can help with how you feel. 
  • Develop your interests and hobbies. Spending time on things you enjoy could help distract you from a stressful situation. 
  • Spend time in nature. This can help to reduce stress and improve wellbeing. You could try going for a walk in a green space, taking care of indoor plants, or spending time with animals.
  • Look after your physical health. Getting enough sleep, staying active and eating a balanced diet can make stress easier to manage. Stress can sometimes make these things difficult to look after. But even small changes can make a big difference.
  • Try not to do too much at once. If you take on too much, you might find it harder to do any individual task well. This could make you feel even more stressed.
  • Be clear with others about what you can take on. In some situations, it might not always be possible to say no to things, or tell people exactly how you feel. But if you can, let people know if their demands are unreasonable or unrealistic.
  • Have breaks and take things slowly. It might be difficult to do this when you're stressed. But it can help to deal with things better and get through a stressful situation.
  • Ask someone if they can help. For example, you could ask a friend or family member to help with some of your daily tasks. This can give you more time to spend on any tasks that are making you stressed.

3Treatment for stress

There are no specific treatments for stress. But there are treatments for some of the signs and symptoms of stress. These might help if you are finding it difficult to manage stress yourself.

Speaking to your GP

Your GP might be helpful to speak to if:

  • You are experiencing a lot of stress.
  • You have felt stressed for a long time.
  • Your feelings of stress are affecting your physical or mental health.

If stress is causing you physical health problems, your GP may run some tests to see how they can help manage the symptoms.

They may suggest some options to help you manage your stress, such as wellbeing and relaxation tips. They might be able to refer you to social prescribing, if it is available in your area. Social prescribing is a form of community-based treatment that helps you deal with social issues affecting your health. 

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

You may find certain complementary and alternative therapies helpful in treating signs and symptoms of stress. This may include:

  • Acupuncture
  • Aromatherapy
  • Some herbal remedies and cannabis-based medicines
  • Hypnotherapy
  • Massage
  • Tai Chi
  • Yoga and mediation

You can try some of these therapies on your own. Whereas others are usually done as part of a class or one-to-one session.

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