April is National Stress Awareness Month, a month that is designed to bring attention to the negative impact of stress.

Managing stress is essential to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. In itself stress is not usually considered as a mental health problem, however, it is connected to our mental health in many ways.

Stress Causing mental health problems

Stress can cause mental health problems, as well as making existing mental health problems worse.

It is fair to say that if you experience a lot of stress it can lead to developing mental health problems like depression or anxiety. A traumatic period of stress can also lead to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Mental Health problems cause stress

Other mental health problems can cause stress. People who are coping with day-to-day symptoms of a mental health problem can find the effects stressful. Stress may also be caused by worrying about medication, meeting healthcare appointments as well as other treatments that are being used to help manage stress.

Recreational drugs and Alcohol use

Some people use recreational drugs and alcohol in order to help them cope with stress. The use of these drugs can affect other mental health problems and can cause further stress symptoms.

What is Stress?

Stress is the reaction we have when we feel threatened or under pressure. It usually occurs when we are in situations that we feel that we can not manage or control. When we are stressed the body releases adrenaline, usually referred to as the fight or flight syndrome. The release of adrenaline motivates or gives a quick boost.

Too much stress however can affect mood, the body, and relationships, particularly when it all feels out of control. Stress can make you feel anxious or irritable and can have a detrimental affect on your self-esteem and confidence. Experiencing long-term stress can lead to feeling physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion. Sometimes this is referred to as burnout.

Signs and Symptoms of Stress

Stress can affect our emotions, body, and the way we behave, it is not always easy for us to identify that we are stressed straight away, and other times it is immediately obvious!

Stress may make a person feel:

  • Irritable,
  • Angry,
  • Wound up,
  • Over-burdened or overwhelmed,
  • Anxious,
  • Nervous,
  • Afraid,
  • Depressed,
  • Uninterested in life,
  • Worried,
  • Tense,
  • Neglected,
  • Lonely, or
  • Losing sense of humour.

People who are stressed may also feel that they are unable to enjoy themselves, or that other mental health problems are getting worse.

It is important that we mention that some people who are stressed may have suicidal feelings that can add to their stress or their feeling of distress.

There are some physical signs that you may notice, or they tell you they are feeling:

  • Difficulty breathing,
  • Panic attack,
  • Blurred vision or sore eyes,
  • Sleep problems,
  • Fatigue,
  • Muscle aches,
  • Headaches,
  • Chest pains,
  • High blood pressure,
  • Indigestion,
  • Heartburn,
  • Constipation,
  • Diarrhoea,
  • Nausea,
  • Dizzy,
  • Fainting,
  • Sudden weight changes,
  • Sweating,
  • Changes to the menstrual cycle, or
  • Existing health problems getting worse.

How can you manage stress?

As stress is not in itself considered a mental health problem, it is highly unlikely that medical practitioners will prescribe medication to control stress, but more likely medication may be considered to treat other mental health problems that are being exasperated by stress.

It is more likely that advice and tips will be more beneficial for the person who is feeling stressed. These tips include:

Try positive thinking

Positive thinking can help relieve stress, therefore think about things that are positive in your life, 1 idea might be to note down each day 3 things that you are thankful for, even if it seems a small thing.

Talk to someone

This can be one of the simplest things to do but can also be one of the hardest, to actually reach out to someone and say, I am struggling I need some help. It can however open the door to recovery and support that the person did not know that they had around them!

People that you could talk to include:

  • Trusted workmate,
  • Trusted friend,
  • Family member, or,
  • Helplines.

Sometimes it is easier to talk to someone from a helpline than to actually someone that you know!

Split tasks into smaller chunks

You are more likely to feel less stressed if you can take practical steps, this includes breaking larger tasks into smaller more manageable bite-sized chunks. It is important that you remember to give yourself credit for achieving tasks!

Be more active

Being active regularly helps to burn off nervous energy, this makes it an option for managing stress. It may not help you manage stress, but may help you to reduce stress.

Plan ahead

Being organised, and planning for upcoming events, deadlines or stressful days can help to relieve stress and can also help you accomplish whatever it is you need to accomplish.

Ways that you can plan include:

  • Create a to-do-list,
  • Plan a journey you are going to make, or
  • List items that you need to take with you.

Mindfulness and Self-help techniques

Mindfulness can be a useful tool for reducing stress, and other mental health problems, we covered this important technique during the Covid-19 pandemic, want to re-read our article? Here is the link for you:


Will these tips help?

It is important to say that not all these tips will work for everyone, it is important that you find the one that works for you and not put pressure on yourself should it one or more not be the one for you. It is a good idea though to try techniques more than once as they may help in different situations.

Want to learn more about stress?
Why not take our ‘Highfield Stress Management e-Learning Course

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