Coping with Stress?


Feelings of stress are normally triggered by things happening in your life.


These may include:

  • Being under lots of pressure: are you under pressure at college/ university or work?

  • Facing big changes

  • Worrying about something

  • Not having much or any control over the outcome of a situation

  • Having responsibilities that you're finding overwhelming

These events may cause you stress, but stress can also be the result of a slow build-up of small or gradual changes.


Identifying when you’re stressed

Below are some common examples of how stress may make you feel. Sometimes you might be able to tell right away when you're feeling under stress, but other times you might keep going without recognising the signs. Stress can affect you both emotionally and physically, and it can affect the way you behave.


How you might feel: 

  • Irritable, aggressive, impatient or wound up

  • Over-burdened, anxious, nervous or afraid

  • Like your thoughts are racing and you can't switch off

  • Neglected or lonely

  • Uninterested in life

How you might behave:

  • Finding it hard to make decisions

  • Avoiding situations that are troubling you

  • Snapping at people

  • Biting your nails

  • Unable to concentrate

  • Eating too much or too little , smoking or drinking alcohol more than usual

How you might be physically affected:

  • Shallow breathing or hyperventilating

  • Problems getting to sleep, staying asleep or having nightmares

  • Tired all the time

  • Headaches

  • Feeling sick, dizzy or fainting

Even though there are likely to be some things that you can't control, there are still practical things you can do to manage the amount of pressure you may feel.  Working out what triggers stress for you can help you anticipate problems and think of ways to solve them:


  • Take some time to reflect on events and feelings that could be contributing to your stress. You may find it helpful to talk to someone about how you are feeling and discuss with them any events or situations relating to the source of your stress.

  • Try and think of problems that come up regularly and that you associate with worry. These may include attending a certain lecture or class, appointments, deadlines and exams.


Self-care techniques and general lifestyle changes can help manage the symptoms of many mental health problems, and may also help to prevent some problems from developing or getting worse. If they work well for you then you may find you don't need any formal treatment. However, it’s important to remember that there is unlikely to be an instant solution. Recovering from a mental health problem is likely to take time, energy and work. Here are some tips for looking after yourself that you might find helpful.

Organising your time

Making some adjustments to the way you organise your time could help you feel more in control of any tasks you're facing, and more able to handle pressure. If you feel that you work best in the morning, arrange large tasks around these times where you feel that you have the most energy.


Make a list. I you have things to do, try and complete the most urgent first such as an essay due in a few days.

Take breaks and take things slowly.  It might be difficult to do this when you're stressed, but it can make you more productive. If you are facing a long day ahead of you studying, try and take 15 minute breaks and make sure you get away from your work and do something else such as going for a walk or your hobby.

Nourish your social life

Feeling connected to other people is important. It can help you to feel valued and confident about yourself, and can give you a different perspective on things. If you can, try to spend more time with your friends and family – even a phone call can make a difference. If you don't have supportive friends and family around you and are feeling isolated, there are other ways you can make connections. For example, you could try joining a group like a book club or local community group to meet new people. If you are at university, you could try joining new clubs or going to events.


Peer support

When you experience a mental health problem it can feel like no one understands. Peer support brings together people who’ve had similar experiences to support each other. This can offer many benefits, such as:

  • Feeling accepted for who you are

  • Increased self-confidence

  • Meeting new people and using your experiences to help others

  • Finding out new information and places for support

  • Challenging stigma and discrimination.


You may already know what helps you relax, like having a bath, listening to music or taking your dog for a walk. If you know that a certain activity helps you feel more relaxed, make sure you set aside time to do it.



Mindfulness is a therapeutic technique that involves being more aware of the present moment. This can mean both outside, in the world around you, and inside, in your feelings and thoughts. Practising mindfulness can help you become more aware of your own moods and reactions.

Try this Mindful breathing exercise

Sit in a comfortable posture, as upright as you can if possible: let your shoulders drop.

Close your eyes if it feels comfortable to do this. If not then focus your sight on a spot in front of you.

Bring your awareness inside you, to body sensations, by focusing your attention on the sensations of touch, contact and pressure in your body where it makes contact with the floor and whatever you are sitting on. Spend a few minutes just noticing these sensations. Try just to notice the sensations for what they are without judging them as good/bad, pleasant/unpleasant.

Bring your attention gently to your breathing, feeling your breathing flowing into your body on the in-breath and out of your body on the outbreath. Don’t try to change your breathing in any way, just pay attention to it. You can focus on the flow of the breath as it moves in and out. Or you might want instead to focus on one aspect of your breath – perhaps the feeling of the air as it moves through your nostrils, or on the feeling of your belly rising and falling.

Keep the focus on your breathing, ‘being with’ each in-breath for its full duration and with each out-breath for its full duration.

Source: NHS MoodJuice (2013)