It’s normal to go through periods of stress, whether it’s caused by school, work, finances, your relationships with others, or something else. Moderate levels of stress can actually be helpful, giving us the energy and focus to deal with the task at hand. But when we’re subject to intense stress, or stress that’s chronic (i.e. continuing over a long period of time), it can start to have negative effects on our well-being.
Although you might not be able to control or change the situation that’s causing stress, there are techniques that you can learn that can help you manage it and avoid being overwhelmed by it.
We tend to think about stress as an entirely negative experience, but that’s not necessarily the case. For one, when we feel stressed about something, it generally means that we care a lot about it—and that’s a good thing. And in the short term, stress can actually be beneficial: it moves us to action and helps us focus on the task at hand. These temporary bursts of stress are known as acute stress.
Acute stress is a natural part of life. Unfortunately, in the modern world, many people experience long-term (or chronic) stress. Chronic stress can be caused by a wide range of things, including school, work, relationships, or living in a dangerous environment. Because our bodies did not evolve to endure stress over long periods of time, chronic stress can lead to physical side-effects, including:
Insomnia and sleep disturbances
Low mood and depression
Excessive worry and anxiety
We can’t always control the sources of our stress, but we can learn positive ways to manage it.
Be kind to yourself through simple things, like cooking a healthy meal or taking a relaxing bath.
Even a quick, 5-minute mindfulness practice can help you stay calm & focused, without getting overwhelmed by everything that’s going on.
Know your limits—whether at work or in your personal life—and don’t be afraid to turn things down when you’ve already got a lot on your plate.
When someone you care about is dealing with a lot of stress, it’s tempting to jump straight into problem-solving. But it’s just as important (if not more important) to show them that you empathize with their situation, and that you’re there to support them. Talk to them about how they’re doing, let them vent, and validate their feelings. You could also point them towards sources of community support where they can talk to people who are going through something similar.
Keep an eye out for signs that somebody is dealing with excessive levels of worry or anxiety-related issues. If somebody is experiencing things like uncontrollable worry, panic attacks or is otherwise feeling overwhelmed by stress, it might be useful to connect them with mental health resources, such as phone counselling or self-guided exercises.
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