Moodzone

How to deal with stress

Stress causes physical changes in the body designed to help you take on threats or difficulties.

You may notice that your heart pounds, your breathing quickens, your muscles tense, and you start to sweat. This is sometimes known as the fight or flight response.

Once the threat or difficulty passes, these physical effects usually fade. But if you're constantly stressed, your body stays in a state of high alert and you may develop stress-related symptoms.

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Symptoms of stress

Stress can affect how you feel emotionally, mentally and physically, and also how you behave.

How you may feel emotionally

How you may feel mentally

  • racing thoughts
  • constant worrying
  • difficulty concentrating 
  • difficulty making decisions

How you may feel physically

How you may behave

  • drinking or smoking more
  • snapping at people
  • avoiding things or people you are having problems with

Visit the Mind website for more signs of stress.

How to tackle stress

You can't always prevent stress, but there are lots of things you can do to manage stress better. 

You could:

Other things that may help:

  • share your problems with family or friends
  • make more time for your interests and hobbies
  • take a break or holiday
  • take some regular exercise and make sure you're eating healthily
  • make sure you're getting enough sleep (see tips on better sleep)

Read how workaholic Arvind learned to deal with stress.

What causes stress?

Big life changes often create stress, even happy events like having a baby or planning a wedding.

Feeling like you aren't in control of events in your life – for example, if you're diagnosed with a serious illness or you get made redundant – can also cause stress.

Stress may be related to:

  • work – for example, unemployment, a high workload or retirement (see Beat stress at work)
  • family – for example, divorce, relationship difficulties or being a carer
  • housing – for example, moving house or problems with neighbours
  • personal issues – for example, coping with a serious illness, bereavement or financial problems

It's important to tackle the causes of stress in your life if you can. Avoiding problems rather than facing them can make things worse.

But it's not always possible to change a stressful situation. You may need to accept there's nothing you can do about it and refocus your energies elsewhere.

For example, if you're a carer, find ways to take breaks and do the things you enjoy.

When to get help for stress

If you've tried self-help techniques and they aren't working, you can get free psychological therapies like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) on the NHS.

You don't need a referral from your GP.

You can refer yourself directly to a psychological therapies service.

Or you can get a referral from your GP if you prefer.

You can also find mental health apps and tools in the NHS apps library.

Media last reviewed: 12/10/2018

Media review due: 12/10/2021

Page last reviewed: 17/03/2017
Next review due: 17/03/2020