Stress 101: Signs You’re Stressed, And What To Do About It
We've all been there.
Whether it’s that five-minute frantic search for your missing shoe when you’re already an hour late or months of panicked procrastination as important exams loom forever closer, we’ve all experienced some sort of stress in our lives. In fact, a study by The Mix found that around 97% of young people aged 16-24 felt stressed last year.
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As this year the theme of Mental Health Awareness Week is stress and pretty much everyone can relate in some way or another, we thought we’d do a stress 101 with the help of some trusty Mind and The Mix experts, exploring what stress is and how it’s linked to our mental health.
Prepare for a full low-down…
What is stress?
There’s a difference between stress and pressure. You may feel under pressure when put in challenging situations (e.g. having to get up on stage to perform) but the increase of adrenaline can be a positive experience, giving you the energy and drive to do well.
Stress is a reaction to being put under too much, or the wrong kind of pressure. For example, some people might react to the pressure of having to get up on stage to perform by feeling stressed, which then makes it a more negative experience.
How do you know if you’re stressed?
Stress can build up over time and you don’t always realise it’s there until it catches up with you and you realise you're not coping well, which is why you should keep an eye out for the signs. Firstly, notice your mood. Are you constantly worrying, thinking a lot about certain things and not being able to move on from them, or feeling easily irritated?
Then you may be stressed. Another key thing to notice is whether your relationships are changing. Are you withdrawing from people and feeling like they’re a burden on your time? Stress can show itself through physical symptoms too like an upset stomach, headaches, problems sleeping, and feeling tight-chested.
Stress affects everyone differently - there are some people that are really good at dealing with it and some people find it quite overwhelming. How you deal with stress determines its impact on your mental health.
What’s the link between stress and your mental health?
If you respond to stress by fixating on things and going over and over them in your mind, it can bring on anxiety. Too much stress can also exacerbate existing mental health problems.
Although stress and mental health conditions often overlap, stress is a reaction to something in particular whereas mental health problems like anxiety might sometimes seem to come out of nowhere.
How can we reduce our stress?
Make time for the stuff you really enjoy whether that’s chilling with friends, exercising (which is great for your mental health) or pursuing your hobbies. We live in a hectic fast-paced world and more often than not we're not picky enough about what we pencil into our schedules. Prioritise spending time on things you love doing, instead of doing everything anyone asks of you.
When you're feeling stressed, you need to find the space to pause and reflect. Work out the cause of your stress. By doing that you can try to purposefully do less of the thing that makes you feel stressed and also make a plan for next time so that you know a helpline you can call or where to go for support if it happens again. Sometimes a good way to pause is just taking a break from screen time for a while.
One really good way to relieve stress is to open up and let other people around you know that you’re struggling. It can help to lighten the burden massively.
Who can we reach out to?
Telling someone how you’re feeling can help you manage your stress and feel supported, whether that’s reaching out to your parents, friends, a teacher that you trust, or the student support services available to you.
If stress is getting too much for whatever reason, talk to your GP about it. If you feel uncomfortable talking face-to-face, The Mix have a useful helpline you can call or a 1-2-1 chat service for support too.
To read more about stress, click here.
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