Mental Health Self-Care Self-Help

The Ultimate Guide to Stress

Everyone gets stressed. What was once a useful evolutionary tactic to stop us from getting attacked by bears or falling into caves now leaves us with the same fast beating heart at the thought of exams, deadlines or personal issues.

However, if stress goes on too long, it can have a lasting negative impact on our physical, mental and emotional health, as well as other aspects of our lives such as grades in school or work performance.

Understanding how stress can impact your physical and mental health is important. It’s also important to recognise how both your mental and physical health affects your own stress level.

That’s why, for Stress Awareness Month, we have put together this super handy guide to identifying stress and what you can do about it.

What is Stress?

Stress is a hormonal reaction in our bodies. Originally, it was used as a ‘fight or flight’ instinct to try to stop us getting into too much trouble with wildlife that wanted to eat us and other things, but it stuck around through thousands of years of evolution.

Unfortunately, these days, our bodies don’t have that much use for it because we aren’t always in imminent danger. So the reaction gets triggered by stuff like exams, school, home life, and loads of other things.

What are some of the symptoms?

  • Headaches
  • Grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw
  • Sweaty palms
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Feeling anxious
  • Difficulty sleeping or insomnia
  • Low energy
  • Muscle tension, especially in the neck and shoulders
  • Physical aches and pains
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Increased chances of catching a cold

What causes stress?

These days, we have a lot going on and managing stress can become an ongoing battle in daily life. Some causes of stress could include

  • Stuff going on at home 
  • Falling out with friends
  • Exams and school pressures 
  • Work performance pressure 
  • Relationship concerns
  • Money worries 
  • Moving house 
  • Current affairs and what is going on with the world around us
  • Even social media can be a cause of stress for some of us. 

It is important to remember that everyone can get stressed, and talking about it is the first step towards being stress and worry free.

What are some symptoms of stress?

There are loads of symptoms of stress. Some are physical, some emotional and some mental. Also, it is important to remember that not everyone gets every symptom and it can show up in many different ways, and not even the same combination of symptoms will show up in the same person in different stressful situations. 

Some emotional symptoms include: 

  • Feeling really overwhelmed with every that’s going on
  • Feeling irritable, or snapping at people when you usually wouldn’t
  • Heightened emotions, or crying at stuff easily 
  • Increased anxiety or nervousness 

Some psychological symptoms include: 

  • Having a tough time concentrating 
  • Not being able to make decisions 
  • Thoughts that race or won’t shut up when you want to sleep or are doing other things 
  • Constantly worrying about stuff (whether they have happened or not) 

Some physical symptoms include:

  • Intense headaches
  • Muscle aches and pains 
  • Dizziness
  • Difficulty sleeping 
  • Feeling really tired all the time
  • Changes to how much you eat

Why do we need to talk about it? 

It is important to remember that absolutely everyone and anyone can get stressed. But because we often use the term ‘stress’ casually, many people don’t think stress is serious enough to talk about. However, stress can have a lasting impact on our health and our lives if it goes on for too long. Not talking about it, and shouldering all of the anxiety that goes with it, is a key reason why it can go on so long. But, discussing it openly with friends, co-workers or trusted adults can stop stress in its tracks before it gets to be too much. 

When should I go to a GP? 

When stress gets to be too much, it might be a good idea to let your Doctor know. For example, if you are experiencing ongoing physical symptoms of stress such as dizziness or sleep difficulties, there might be something they can help with. 

Also, if you have tried home remedies and relaxation techniques for dealing with it and they don’t seem to be working, give the doctor a call. 

How do I deal with it? 

There are loads of things you can do to ease the symptoms of stress yourself. 

Below is just a handful of ideas that could help you out – if you need more, check out our article 101 Ways to Chill Out and Reduce Stress

1) Meditation

Taking time to relax and rest is a great way to chill. You can use visualisation exercises (which you will definitely be able to find with a quick google) through guided meditation, or come up with your own.

Breathing exercises are also a great form of meditation. Take a moment right now and watch this circle. As the circle expands, breathe in, and the as it contracts, breathe out. Repeat three times.

Deep breaths

2) Mindfulness

You would have seen those adult colouring books by now for sure. Mindfulness is all about grounding you in space and allowing your brain a bit of a break by making you focus on another activity.

3) Self-Care

Not feeling like those are for you? Well self care is for everyone. Take a moment for yourself and have a chilled out bath with Netflix on, go for a long walk in the sunshine without your phone attached to your hand, try out a new skincare routine – anything to make you feel calm, and at your best.

4) Get a massage

So this one requires a bit of a larger budget than the others but if you are stressed you are probably carrying a lot of tension in your muscles. Not only can this get painful, but it can trigger more stress in the long run. Not got the dollar to make this happen? Get one of your parents, your partner or your best friend to give your shoulders a rub.

5) Sleep hygiene 

Getting a good nights sleep can seem to make every bit of stress melt away. Making sure you have a good routine before bed not only makes sure this will happen, but gets you relaxed and focussing on yourself for more of the day. Try a warm bath or shower, get in bed and make sure there are no devices near you so you can catch some high quality ZZZs.

Anything else? 

We have loads of other resources and guides to help you deal with stress – check them out below! 

Think you might be suffering with stress and need someone to speak to? Reach out to the Ditch the Label Community here.

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