What is stress?

Stress is a word that lots of people use when they feel like things are getting too much to deal with. Stress is different for everyone. Some people find moving house stressful, this might not be a problem for others. Most people feel stress at some time in their lives. Stress can make you feel very poorly. You should get some help to make things better.

How you might feel if you are stressed

Stress can affect how you feel and how you behave.

You might feel:

  • Worried, nervous or tense.
  • Down, or depressed.
  • Irritable or angry.
  • Unable to control your temper.
  • Tired or not wanting to do anything or go anywhere.

Your body might feel different:

  • You might get headaches or feel dizzy.
  • You might sweat.
  • Your heart might beat faster.
  • You might get pains in your stomach.
  • You might get pain in your muscles.
  • You might think you might find it harder to breathe.

You might behave differently:

  • You might get angry at people.
  • You might start drinking or smoking more than normal.
  • You might not want to eat much, or eat too much.
  • You might have problems sleeping.

If you have some of these things, you might be feeling stressed.

Why do people feel stressed?

Lots of things that happen in your life can make you feel stressed.

Things like:

  • Someone close to you dying.
  • A relationship ending.
  • Losing your job or starting a new job.
  • Having a lot of changes happening.
  • Having health problems.
  • Worrying about money.
  • Moving house.
  • Arguing with your friends or family.

There are lots of things you can try to help you feel less stressed

  • Talk to people about how you are feeling.
  • Try to think about good things that you like.
  • Eat well.
  • Plan your time, do one thing at a time and remember to take breaks.
  • Relax – take time to enjoy yourself.
  • Exercise.
  • Talk to your doctor, if these things don’t work.
  • Have a holiday if you can.

“Exploring Stress”: Online Resource

Our free online course ‘Exploring Stress’ explores what stress is, the physical and psychological impact of the stress response, the stress vulnerability bucket model, basic coping theory, everyday ways of coping, how genetics and the environment influence our vulnerability to stress and what can help when dealing with stress.

To explore this resource, and more, head over to our e-learning site where you will need to create a free account.

Real Life Experience

Time to Talk

At 20 years of age my long held ‘secret’ had to come out, for years I had been portraying I was okay to the world whilst sinking in a pit of despair. You wouldn’t know, I had mastered the art of functioning enough to get by so that I didn’t draw attention to what I was struggling with. I would push on through my day and crash at night, my tank was running on empty but I made every last drop count.. I wanted to keep up with the world, the social gatherings, work, family, university assignments, exams, independent living… becoming an adult. This was a time of change I would tell myself, it’s meant to be difficult.. But this was more than difficult, life was unbearable.

I didn’t want to ‘rest and repair’ as much as I knew I needed to, I didn’t feel I could afford to. I would push on and hopefully it would all miraculously disappear. I identified myself as an individual that was capable, strong, resilient, perseverant and independent.. all of which I felt ran contrary to my belief of what telling another person of my struggles would mean. I was afraid of judgement, in fact paralysed by it.. I had visions of going to the Doctors and being told ‘You’re not trying hard enough, how dare you consider yourself to be depressed’… these were my own voices, due to a lack of knowledge I had erroneously envisioned depression as an illness that captures an individual to their bed leaving them permanently disabled.. I would think ‘this isn’t me, I’m able to get out of bed, push through and function, I’m not bed bound.. surely I can’t be depressed’.

So I ‘pushed on’ and on until I crashed, upon reflection there were many signs leading up to finding myself at crisis point I just didn’t know where to turn, I felt utterly helpless. People had began to notice something was up they just didn’t know what, how could they if I would smile and tell them I’m great, I would deflect, deflect, and deflect some more.. The final blow so to speak came when I had been out drinking with my friends, upon returning home my dog was nowhere to be seen.. ‘Where is he’ I panicked, he hadn’t been well for a while, I feared what this meant, when I opened the door to find my parents in tears without Storm but his dog collar in hand it was evident he had passed, I broke down, I couldn’t take any more suffering, the stress and despair was too great to burden.

Landing myself in front of a crisis team Psychiatrist was the last thing I wanted but it was what I most needed, I couldn’t go on struggling any longer, finally I had to open up, reach out and allow others to understand how I was struggling.. I quickly realised I wasn’t alone feeling overwhelmed, depressed and anxious, others shared their own struggles and my world got that much bigger, I wasn’t a ‘failure’ for feeling this way, no I was simply struggling and requiring help, something we all need from time to time. I visited the GP with my then girlfriend and felt supported and validated, I learned there were medical terms and explanations for why I felt how I felt and why I had difficulties with sleep, mental cognition, hunger, exhaustion, low mood, numbness, negative intrusive thoughts and so forth.. I was forwarded to the local NHS Adult mental health service and began discussing my difficulties with a Psychologist, I undertook CBT therapy and my wellbeing gradually improved.

I learned the impact of stress on my mental wellbeing and the process of how I had come to find myself at crisis point. I gained awareness on how to manage my mental health and the importance of talking about my difficulties. For a long time I was paralysed with a ‘secret’ that I felt I had to hold alone, little did I realise many other individuals also felt the same. I’m very grateful for all the support and help I received, if I could have changed one thing it would have been that I spoke about my difficulties sooner. Only through clear and honest communication can we let others help us, and I’d like to offer suggestions on what could make that transpire.

When reaching out to discuss mental health there are steps that can be taken to make the experience more comfortable, such ingredients as the environment, timing, person/organisation of choice, self-education, knowledge of what needs to be communicated and form of communication. All ingredients that can be modified to make the experience a more comfortable setting to share and discuss mental health struggles.

If it feels unbearable to speak with a GP about your mental health, you can always write on a note how you feel and bring it with you to the appointment, or if you simply want to discuss your mental health with a family member or friend pick a time that feels less intrusive and stressful for you such as whilst walking the dogs, leisurely sat sipping a cup of tea or during a stroll in the park. From my own experience talking about mental health can be uncomfortable but it is nowhere near as painful as suffering mental illness, so please seek support. And I ask helpful others that may be on the receiving end of an individual wanting to discuss mental health difficulties to listen attentively with non-judgement, this act alone creates pathways to increased support, resilience, self-advocacy and healing.

Recovery College Online offers informative resources and educational resources that can foster understanding for not only individuals suffering with mental illness but family, friends, caretakers and professionals to make discussing mental health a meaningful experience. The website offers a host of knowledge from understanding mental health, how to seek treatment, the process of recovery and how to support someone with mental illness. All aiding the process of recovery, reducing stigma and improving mental wellbeing.