A self-help guide to stress

Stress is the word used by people when describing how the demands of their life is becoming too great for them to cope with. This ability to cope can vary from person to person so not everyone will find the same situation as stressful as the other.

Most people will suffer some level of stress at some point in their lives, however suffering with stress over a long period of time can be bad for our physical and mental health.

Some physical symptoms of stress can include headaches, muscle tension or pain, tiredness, sexual problems, bowel or bladder problems, breathlessness and sweating. Emotionally, people who suffer stress can experience irritability, anxiety, low self-esteem and low mood. These symptoms can result in an inability to sleep, forgetfulness, temper outbursts, drinking/smoking too much, losing interest in activities you enjoy and changes in eating habits.

Suffering stress over a long period can cause long term health risks such as heart disease, severe depression, stomach ulcers, sleep problems, fatigue, stroke and severe anxiety.

There can be many reasons a person might experience feelings of stress, often involving life changing events such as death of a partner/close family member, divorce, loss of a job, pregnancy/childbirth, financial commitments/problems, health problems and problems at work; the list is extensive.

The first step to tackling stress is to first become aware that it has become a problem for you. Following this, you can take a number of steps to reduce its impact on you. Some things you might find helpful are as follows:

  • Eat a balanced diet. Eat slowly and sit down if possible.
  • Be honest with yourself and admit that you are suffering with stress and finding it difficult to cope.
  • Try and focus on the present. This can often be difficult if you have experienced some difficult or traumatic past experiences or issues.
  • Be realistic about what you can achieve. Taking on too much is a common trigger for stress.
  • Plan your time and do one thing at a time. Changing too much in your life at once can cause stress.
  • Prioritise the things in your life.
  • Try and find time for yourself each day. Resting and engaging in leisure activities is important.
  • If work is causing stress, try and consider your options; could you get more support or speak with your manager/boss?
  • Take regular exercise. Exercise releases happy hormones that make us feel good and is a great way to release stress.
  • Do not be afraid or feel guilty saying no. A lot of stress is caused by taking too much on. It is important, especially at times of heightened stress to consider your own needs and priorities.
  • If a relationship is causing stress, try and communicate with that person, this can help reduce stress in the long term.

It you feel that your stress has become overwhelming and it is causing feelings of depression, low mood, suicidal thoughts or if you can't see a way out, seek professional help from your GP or counsellor.

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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Written by Sarah Hutchinson MBACP Accredited

I have worked in the NHS for over 6 years and have started working privately as a therapeutic counsellor. I have experience of working with a range of complex and common issues and experiences. Stress is a common factor in most people's lives and I hope my simple guide can act as a tool for understanding and offer a way to cope in the long term.… Read more

Written by Sarah Hutchinson MBACP Accredited

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