Managing Stress

Posted on 09 September 2020

Stress is pretty much a constant in our lives, but it doesn’t always have to be a bad thing, and it doesn’t have to control us. Short-term stress can be connected to something you’re excited or nervous about, and it can push you to put in maximum effort. Long-term stress, however, is less helpful and can have a negative impact on your mind and body, which is why it’s important to find the coping strategies that can help you manage that stress.

What causes stress?

There really are no rules when it comes to potential causes of stress, and every person reacts differently in every situation. A textbook definition of stress would call it your body’s reaction to a threat, or to pressure, but that pressure doesn’t have to be massive. Our bodies and minds have unique responses to stressful situations, and you should never be ashamed of feeling overwhelmed, it just means your body is doing its best to deal with the situation you’re in

 

You might feel stressed if you have have too much on our plate, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re the busiest person on the planet — maybe there’s tension at home, or you’re going through a rough patch in a relationship, and adding even “normal” stress from school or work on top of that can push you over the edge and feel unmanageable. It’s times like these when your body needs a little help, and that’s where coping strategies come in.

 

When we’re really young, most of our stress comes from within the home, generally centered around big life changes like divorce or moving house. However, as we get older, our potential sources of stress expand to outside of the home, to include our school life, friends, relationships, work, and beyond. We can think of this time as a converging of two worlds: our home life, with all the stress that comes with it, and school, which holds all the stress of our social life and relationships, coupled with the stress of academics. When you think of it that way, it’s no surprise we’re all so stressed out all the time. Thinking about where stress comes from can also help you organise and prioritise your worries, which is a helpful coping mechanism when you’re overwhelmed.

When everything stacks up it can start to feel pretty stressful. But you CAN get through it!

 

How does stress feel to you?

Just like how we all find different things stressful, stress also presents itself differently in each of us. For some, it’s very physical, and can result in a loss of appetite, feeling ill, headaches and body aches, tightness in the chest, and issues sleeping. For others, it can make them pull away from things they used to enjoy, from people they love, and they can get wrapped up in the things going on in their head. 

 

It’s important to recognise how stress feels to you, so you can get to know the warning signs your body sends to let you know it’s getting overwhelmed. When you start to feel overwhelmed, you can use positive coping techniques to keep yourself calm and manage your stress methodically, so it doesn’t get out of hand.

You could try: Next time you start to feel overwhelmed with stress, try writing down how you feel in that moment. Is your heart beating fast? Are you sweating? Is your chest tight, or are you breathing differently? You don’t have to necessarily do anything with this information, it’s just good to know how stress affects your body on a physical level. This can even help calm us down, because we recognise the physical warning signs and can attribute them to stress, rather than worrying about why we are feeling them.

Writing everything down in a list might help you think about things differently

 

I’m stressed out — what can I do? 

Like we said before, small amounts of stress can be super helpful as motivation to tackle difficult tasks. But, when we feel overwhelmed, it’s often a combination of many small stressors that feel like one big ball of anxiety weighing us down, and if we can separate them out and think about them individually, they’re suddenly not so scary. Here are a few things you can try that can help you form positive habits, which help manage stress long-term: 

  • Write a list: This one may seem overly simple, but putting down on paper word-for-word the things you’re worried about forces your brain to think about them in a rational way. It gets the worries out of your head, where they’re jumbled together and often unclear, and out in the open, where you can deal with them one at a time.
  • Say things out loud: Once you’ve listed out the things you’re stressing over, try saying them out loud — talk through where that stress came from, and why you’re so worried about it. For example, maybe you’re worried about a coursework deadline, but you weren’t worried about it until yesterday because someone sent a message to the group chat saying they were worried about it, and you started overthinking it. By dissecting that stress out loud, your brain can be rational about it, and suddenly the stress isn’t all-consuming — it’s just another thing you’ll deal with this week. 
  • Set aside time for yourself: When you take the time to separate out your thoughts and tackle each of them individually, rather than let yourself be overwhelmed by them all at once, you free up space in your mind to focus on other things. You could fill this time with positive coping strategies, which could be anything from drawing, journaling, or painting — all creative outlets that can help us express our thoughts and emotions — or with mindful activities like exercising, listening to music, podcasts, meditating, or reading, all of which can occupy our minds and help us unwind when we’re preoccupied.

 

I’m spiraling — what can I do right now?

Here are a few coping techniques that can help get you through a particularly stressful moment, where you may feel panicky, frustrated, or just out of control: 

It’s perfectly normal to want to scream while you’re stressed. Try doing it into a pillow!

 

When you need some support

Seeking help is nothing to be ashamed of, and neither is talking about your worries — everyone is working through their own stress, and talking about it with people you trust can be extremely beneficial, whether that’s calling a helpline, your therapist, or your best friend. Always remember, no matter how overwhelmed you feel, you’re not alone, and it will pass. Trust your coping techniques, ask for help, and you’ll be okay.

 

Always remember that feeling stressed is normal, and so is needing some help in managing that stress. If you find that your usual coping techniques aren’t cutting it, there are other resources that can help you. You can find an extensive list of helplines and other resources on our website, here. 

 

There are hundreds of helplines and sources of information and advice available, especially online, and they are often designed specifically for certain situations — Childline, for example, provides support tailored to young people under the age of 19, whereas Beat provides support for people struggling with eating disorders, and Switchboard is an LGBT+ helpline. 

Who can you call? 

Always remember that helplines like Samaritans are always available to help (call 116 123), but there are so many other resources out there that you might find helpful! We’ve listed a few below, but you can find more on the Helplines page of our website.

  • MEIC – provides advice tailored to your age range, up to 25 in Wales. They can help find out what’s going on in your local area, or help you deal with a tricky situation. They offer information, advice and support with no judgement.
  • The Mix – a support service for under 25s, available 365 days a year. They’re there to help you take on any challenge you’re facing – from mental health to money, from homelessness to finding a job, from break-ups to drugs.
  • C.A.L.L. – offers emotional support and information on mental health and related matters to people in Wales. If you’re concerned about your own mental health, or someone that you know, you can call or text C.A.L.L. for a confidential listening and support service.

Whatever it is you’re facing, there’s always someone there you can speak to you.

 

How to relax without the fancy app

There are tons of free spaces online where you can find guided meditation and mindfulness exercises, on Spotify, Youtube, and beyond — you don’t need to subscribe to an app to find peace of mind. You can find guided meditations and sleep stories from Calm (yes, like the app) on their Youtube channel, along with other meditation channels like this one

 

On Spotify, you can find almost every kind of podcast — I like to listen to them to sleep when I’m stressed. Check out this one, which tells boring stories until you fall asleep, or this one that reads you bedtime stories paired with a short meditation to help you fall asleep easier. You can even find meditation music on Spotify, designed to help you take five minutes out of your day to reset. Anywhere you find podcasts, you can find something to help you relax.

 

Remember, we all deal with stress, and it affects everyone differently, so don’t beat yourself up if what works for your pal doesn’t work for you — just keep on truckin’ and you’ll find ‘your thing’ that helps you cope. 

 

We’re all only human, and stress is a part of that, but finding ways to slow things down and work through them piece by piece will help you keep on crushin’ it!