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Stress is something we’re all aware of – but what does it actually mean to be stressed? Stress is not an emotion exactly, stress is an experience of feeling overwhelmed or overloaded. It’s how you react when you’re faced with hard things that trigger emotions like anxiety, fear or sadness.

We operate best when we’ve got a good balance of things on our plate. What does that mean? Well, having too few demands (lack of stimulation, boredom, isolation) is not good for us, but neither is having too many demands. The experience of stress is a bit like being a factory worker when you have too many problems coming down the conveyor belt of life. Of course you will begin to feel overloaded!

Stress can have a major impact on our decisions and behaviour, so knowing what stress looks and feels like will help you manage what life throws at you. 

Some common signs of high stress include:

  • Trouble sleeping
  • Energy levels are too high or too low
  • Headaches/stomach aches/muscle tension
  • Getting sick often
  • Biting your nails, or other nervous habits
  • Feeling mentally foggy or “off with the fairies”, forgetfulness
  • Anger, difficulty communicating, increased frustration

When you feel these things, you may find that you’re also:

  • Laughing less
  • Not talking to friends
  • Being mean for no reason
  • Feeling more irritable
  • Having trouble concentrating
  • Thinking negatively about yourself, those around you, or about life

So how do you deal with stress before it starts affecting your relationships with your parents and friends (or anyone really)? 

Top tips for dealing with stress

All feelings are okay

Remember that all feelings are okay (even sadness, fear and anger). Everyone has these feelings – the trick is to not feel bad about them or pretend they aren’t there. Telling someone about our troubles can help generate solutions, or enable someone else to carry the load.

Sad face emoji

Treat yourself

Use stress as a reminder that you need to look after yourself – so take a break, re-set, and find a way to build your energy levels back up.

Treat someone else

Do something good for someone else. Sounds weird, but doing nice things for others will make you feel good because you’re getting something done and you’ll feel proud of yourself as well. It also takes our focus away from ourselves, and helps us connect to what we truly value in life.

Move your body

Exercise makes your brain and body feel happy. Bonus points for getting out there and playing a team sport because it will help you to be social and exercise at the same time!

Take a deep breathe

Chill out with some deep breathing exercises. This calms our body and mind and helps us to re-set. Start off with just a few minutes at a time. The more you practice, you will find your mind clearing and feelings of tension inside your body easing.

If you’ve already given these a go and are still feeling stressed, that’s okay! It takes time to adjust our habits. If you need more help, try talking to a trusted adult or reaching out for professional support.

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