Stress is a condition or feeling experienced when a person feels that the demands being placed on them exceeds what they are able to cope with. 

You can think of stress as being like a bridge – when a bridge is carrying too much weight, it will eventually collapse. It is possible to see the warning signs before this happens, the bridge would bow, buckle and creak.

The same principle can be applied to human beings, with excessive demands and challenges placed on our bridges. There may be early warning signs. However stress can creep up on some of us, resulting in an unexpected breakdown.

Signs of Stress
How you might feel
  • irritable, aggressive, impatient or wound up
  • over-burdened
  • anxious, nervous or afraid
  • like your thoughts are racing and you can’t switch off
  • unable to enjoy yourself
  • depressed
  • uninterested in life
  • like you’ve lost your sense of humour
  • a sense of dread
  • worried about your health
  • neglected or lonely
How you might behave
  • finding it hard to make decisions
  • avoiding situations that are troubling you
  • snapping at people
  • biting your nails
  • picking at your skin
  • unable to concentrate
  • eating too much or too little
  • smoking or drinking alcohol more than usual
  • restless, like you can’t sit still
  • feeling tearful or crying
How you might be physically affected
  • shallow breathing or hyperventilating
  • you might have a panic attack
  • blurred eyesight or sore eyes
  • problems getting to sleep, staying asleep or having nightmares
  • tired all the time
  • grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw
  • headaches
  • chest pains
  • high blood pressure
  • indigestion or heartburn
  • constipation or diarrhoea
  • feeling sick, dizzy or fainting
Dealing with Stress

Identify triggers
Working out what triggers stress for you can help you anticipate problems and think of ways to solve them. 

Have a think about what could be contributing to your stress:

  • issues that come up regularly and worry you for example paying a bill or attending an appointment
  • one off events like taking an exam or moving house
  • ongoing circumstances like being a carer or having problems at work

When you consider all of this you might be surprised to find out how much you’re coping with at once. Remember that not having enough work, activities or change in your life can be just as stressful as having too much to deal with.

Organise your time
Making some adjustments to the way you organise your time could help you feel more in control of any tasks you’re facing, and more able to handle pressure.

  • Identify your best time of day and do important tasks that need the most energy and concentration at that time of day.
  • Make a list of things you have to do. Arrange them in order of importance, and try to focus on the most urgent first. If your tasks are work related, ask a manager or colleague to help you prioritise. You may be able to push back some tasks until you’re feeling less stressed.
  • Vary your activities. Balance interesting tasks with more mundane ones, and stressful tasks with those you find easier or can do more calmly.
  • 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 can make you feel like you have even more pressure on you.
  • Take breaks and take things slowly. It might be difficult to do this when you’re stressed, but it can make you more productive.

Think about addressing the causes
There will always be things in life that you can’t do much about, but there might be some practical ways you could resolve or improve the issues that are putting pressure on you, for example, if work is causing you stress speak to your manager about supporting you with your workload. 

Be active
Exercise won’t make your stress disappear, but it will reduce some of the emotional intensity that you’re feeling, clearing your thoughts and letting you to deal with your problems more calmly.

Take Control
There are solutions to problems, if you feel like you can’t do anything a particular problem your stress is likely to increase. That feeling of loss of control is one of the main causes of stress and lack of wellbeing.

The act of taking control is in itself empowering, and it’s a crucial part of finding a solution that satisfies you and not someone else.

Connect with People
A good support network of colleagues, friends and family can ease your work troubles and help you see things in a different way.

The activities we do with friends help us relax. Having a laugh and enjoying time with friends is an excellent stress reliever.

Make time for you
Sometimes you need a bit of quality “me” time to just relax and do the things you enjoy, whether that is spending time with friends, going for a run or reading a book.

Accept the things you can’t change
It’s not easy, but accepting that there are some things happening to you that you probably can’t do anything about will help you focus your time and energy more productively.