The impact of stress on your mental health

We all experience levels of stress every day and in most cases, this can be extremely beneficial in helping us to complete a task. However, prolonged stress can have serious effects on your mental wellbeing and cause physical health problems as well.

Signs of you being extremely stressed can include irritability and aggression. You are likely to feel impatient, a sense of dread or over-burdened. You may find you are unable to switch off your thoughts and feel anxious, afraid, depressed or sad and find little enjoyment from anything in your life.

Physically it can cause panic attacks, muscle tension, shallow breathing, blurred eyesight, tiredness, headaches, high blood pressure, nausea or chest pains. This can impact your decision making, concentration levels, sleeping patterns or eating behaviours.

It is important to deal with stress quickly before it escalates. Different things will work for different people, but the following may help:

  1. Identify your triggers so you can anticipate problems and think of ways to solve them or be prepared for them. Take time to reflect on events and feelings that could be contributing to your stress, you might be surprised to find out just how much you are coping with at once. Remember that not having enough work, activities or change in your life can be just as stressful as having too much to deal with.
  2. Organise your time so you feel more in control of any task you are facing. Do things in the day when you have the most energy. Make lists to help plan and arrange them in order of importance. Set small and achievable targets. Vary your activities and add in interesting ones to balance out the bad ones. Try not to do too much at once and take regular breaks. Don’t be afraid to ask someone to help.
  3. Address the causes and see if there are any practical ways you could improve some of the issues.
  4. Accept the things you can’t change. This is never easy, but will allow you to focus your time and energy more productively on the things you can change.

Build your resilience!

Resilience is not just the ability to bounce back, but also your capacity to adapt in the face of challenging circumstances, whilst maintaining a stable mental wellbeing. Resilience is something everyone can build upon.

  1. Make lifestyle changes. Practise being more assertive and say no to unrealistic demands or things you do not want to do. Use relaxation techniques and set aside time each day to do these. Find an activity you enjoy and gives you a break away from the stress. Make time for friends and have fun. Find balance in your life and spread the pressures where possible.
  2. Look after your physical health by getting enough sleep, being more physically active and eating healthy.
  3. Give yourself a break and be kinder to yourself in general. Reward yourself for achievements, however small they may seem. Get outside and enjoy a change of scenery, take a break or a holiday. Resolve any conflicts and more importantly learn to forgive yourself as nobody is perfect.
  4. Build your support network as you do not have to cope alone. Speak to friends or family, ask for help at work, school or university.

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