Stress is the body’s direct response to overwhelming life pressures – once these life pressures reduce, so do the feelings of stress

Girl in school hall looking sad

Causes of stress

When the body is under stress it produces hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones prepare the body to take urgent action – to fight or take flight – and have a number of negative health side-effects.

These side-effects include anxiety, depression, concentration problems, weight gain or loss, dizziness and sleep problems.

Dealing with stress

People under stress react differently. At times, we may feel like shouting and throwing things, but instead we withdraw and stop socialising and answering messages. Other times, when we may think we cannot cope, we may feel tearful but outwardly appear angry and behave aggressively.

In younger children, changes in their behaviour can indicate stress. Possible changes include bedwetting, headaches, stomach upsets, sleep problems and refusing to go to school.

The difference between stress and anxiety

Anxiety is often one of the main symptoms of stress. Anxiety is a condition that continues long after the stressful situation has ended.

Stress management

  • Recognise triggers: Begin to track times where you have felt stressed and look for patterns in how you reacted. What was happening when you felt stressed? What did you think/feel/do just before you felt stressed? Who were you with? Is there anything you could have done differently to cope better?
  • Awareness: Once we are aware of difficulties that are likely to make us feel stressed we can take steps to prevent stress or deal with it quickly.
  • Self-care: Be kind to yourself – stress is a human experience. Try to connect with friends or join a discussion board. Talk about your stress. Take an internet or social media detox. Listen to music – create a playlist, get outdoors and enjoy some natural light.
  • Exercise, relaxation and meditation: Some people find that exercises and activities such as meditation, breathing exercises and deep muscle relaxation are helpful.
  • Eat well and sleep: The better rested and nourished we are, the more able we are to cope with pressure. Lack of sleep and a poor diet is a vicious cycle which can trigger and exacerbate stress.
  • Be aware of your personal limits: Be realistic about what you can commit to. Make sure you manage your workload effectively. If you are feeling burdened, work out how others can help.
  • Talking therapy: If you are finding it difficult to cope, consider meeting with someone trained to help – this might include your GP or talking therapy.

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Top apps

  • Calm: An app for meditation and mindfulness
  • Headspace - For ages 13-25 – To train your mind for a healthier, happier life by reducing daily anxieties and stresses
  • Breathe2Relax: A portable stress management tool for iOS and Android

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