Something on stress

stress is a well-known trigger for depression and it can also affect your physical health. So it's important to identify the causes of stress in your life and try to minimise them.

Any sort of loss, from bereavement, divorce and separation to a child leaving home, causes stress, as do long-term illness and disability. But things such as marriage, moving house, a new job and holidays have quite high stress ratings too.

In work, worrying about deadlines or about not being up to the challenges of a particular task can cause stress.

Symptoms of stress


Some common signs of too much stress include:

  • Increased irritability
  • Heightened sensitivity to criticism
  • Signs of tension, such as nail-biting
  • Difficulty getting to sleep and early morning waking
  • Drinking and smoking more
  • Indigestion
  • Loss of concentration


It's important to act to relieve damaging stress before it affects your physical or mental health.

Dealing with stress


The secret of managing stress is to look after yourself and, where possible, to remove some of the causes of stress. If you start to feel things are getting on top of you, give yourself some breathing space.

Take a day off work, domestic chores, family and everything else that puts pressure on you. Spend the day doing only relaxing things that make you feel good. It can make all the difference, reducing the threat to your wellbeing.

Some ways to cope with stress:

  • Accept offers of practical help
  • Do one thing at a time - don't keep piling stress on stress
  • Know your own limits - don't be too competitive or expect too much of yourself
  • Talk to someone
  • Let off steam in a way that causes no harm (shout, scream or hit a pillow)
  • Walk away from stressful situations
  • Try to spend time with people who are rewarding rather than critical and judgmental
  • Practise slow breathing using the lower part of the lungs
  • Use relaxation techniques


One response to stress can be anger. Find out more about anger management.

Work-related stress


stress caused by work is the second biggest occupational health problem in the UK (after back problems). Because there's still a stigma attached to mental health problems, employees are often reluctant to seek help in case they're seen as unable to cope.

Many situations can lead to stress at work. These include:

  • Poor relationships with colleagues
  • an unsupportive boss
  • Lack of consultation and communication
  • Too much interference with your private, social or family life
  • Toomuch or too little to do
  • Too much pressure, with unrealistic deadlines
  • Work that's too difficult or not demanding enough
  • Lack of control over the way the work is done
  • Poor working conditions
  • Being in the wrong job
  • Feeling undervalued
  • Insecurity and the threat of unemployment


When people feel under impossible pressure at work, they tend to work harder and harder to try to close the gap between what they're achieving and what they think they should be achieving. They stop taking breaks and lose touch with their own needs.

Tackling work stress


There are general things you can do:

  • Talk to someone you trust - at work or outside - about the things that are upsetting you
  • Use whatever counselling or support is available
  • Work regular hours and take all the breaks and holidays you're entitled to.
  • If things get too much, book a day off or a long weekend
  • Use flexitime, if available, to avoid rush-hour travel or to fit in with childcare needs
  • Look after yourself through exercise and healthy eating
  • Tackle addictions to alcohol, smoking or other drugs


Specific things to do:

  • Make your work environment comfortable and suited to your needs
  • Discuss problems with your supervisor or manager, and if difficulties can't be resolved, talk to your personnel department, trade union representative or other relevant members of staff
  • Treat colleagues with the respect and consideration you'd like from them
  • Be aware of company policies on harassment, bullying or racism, so you know how to challenge unacceptable behaviour and what back-up there is


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