Stress is something everyone feels at times, and there are all kinds of stressful situations that can be a part of daily life. Low-level stress can even be helpful or motivational.
There are plenty of things you can do to help cope with stressful events, and simple steps you can take to deal with feelings of stress or burnout.
What is stress?
Stress is the body's reaction to feeling threatened or under pressure. It's very common, can be motivating to help us achieve things in our daily life, and can help us meet the demands of home, work and family life.
But too much stress can affect our mood, our body and our relationships – especially when it feels out of our control. It can make us feel anxious and irritable, and affect our self-esteem.
Experiencing a lot of stress over a long period of time can also lead to a feeling of physical, mental and emotional exhaustion, often called burnout.
The tips on this page should help, but if you have been experiencing stress for some time and it's affecting your daily life or causing you distress, you should consider seeking further support.
Top tips to deal with stress and burnout
Split up big tasks
If a task seems overwhelming and difficult to start, try breaking it down into easier chunks, and give yourself credit for completing them. Making a habit of this can really help.
Allow yourself some positivity
Take time to think about the good things in your life. Make an appointment with yourself each day to consider what went well and try to list 3 things you're thankful for.
Try self-help CBT techniques
Our short video guides and practical strategies can help you deal with worries, anxiety and unhelpful thoughts, work through problems in new ways and build resilience.
Talk to someone
Trusted friends, family and colleagues, or contacting a helpline, can help us when we are struggling. Watch our video for more ideas.
Planning out any upcoming stressful days or events – a to-do list, the journey you need to do, things you need to take – can really help.
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Find what works for you
Video: What you can do for stress
Professor Anna Whittaker, psychologist and professor of behavioural medicine, says: "Taking control of the situation when you're feeling stressed is really empowering."
Signs of stress or burnout
If you are stressed, you may:
- feel overwhelmed
- have racing thoughts or difficulty concentrating
- be irritable
- feel constantly worried, anxious or scared
- feel a lack of self-confidence
- have trouble sleeping or feel tired all the time
- avoid things or people you are having problems with
- be eating more or less than usual
- drink or smoke more than usual
Possible causes of stress
Stress affects people differently, and the things that cause stress vary from person to person.
The level of stress you are comfortable with may be higher or lower than that of other people around you. Stressful feelings typically happen when we feel we do not have the resources to manage the challenges we face.
Pressure at work, school or home, illness, or difficult or sudden life events can all lead to stress.
Some possible causes of stress are:
- our individual genes, upbringing and experiences
- difficulties in our personal lives and relationships
- big or unexpected life changes, like moving house, having a baby or starting to care for someone
- money difficulties, like debt or struggling to afford daily essentials
- health issues, either for you or someone close to you
- pregnancy and children
- problems with housing, like the conditions, maintenance or tenancy
- a difficult or troubled work environment
- feeling lonely and unsupported
Support for stress
Seek NHS support
If stress is affecting your daily life or causing you distress, call NHS 111 or talk to your GP. In England, you can also refer yourself for psychological therapy through the NHS IAPT service without seeing your GP.
Try a Reading Well book
Reading Well for mental health provides helpful information and support, with books on mindfulness and other subjects available free from your local library.
Helping someone else
Get tips and advice on helping others struggling with their mental health.
If you cannot wait to see a doctor and feel unable to cope or keep yourself safe, it's important to get support – services are still open during the coronavirus pandemic.