Stress and Mental Health: What Are The Coping Strategies?

Definition of Stress:

Stress is a feeling of being under abnormal pressure. This pressure can come from different aspects of your day to day life e.g.increased workload, a transitional period, an argument you have with your family.

Stress affects us in a number of ways, both physically and emotionally and in varying intensities.

Signs/Symptoms of Stress;

  • Feelings of constant worry or anxiety
  • Feelings of being overwhelmed
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Mood swings or changes in your mood
  • Irritability or having a short temper
  • Difficulty relaxing
  • Depression
  • Low self-esteem
  • Eating more or less than usual
  • Changes in your sleeping habits
  • Using alcohol, tobacco or illegal drugs to relax
  • Aches and pains, particularly muscle tension
  • diarrhea and constipation
  • Feelings of nausea or dizziness
  • loss of sex drive.

Three steps to take when feeling stressed

  1. Realise when it is causing you a problem (Look out for physical warnings such as tense muscles, over-tiredness, headaches or migraines)
  1. Identify the causes.
  1. Review your lifestyle.

To act on the by answering these questions honestly, you’ll  be able to prioritize things you are trying to achieve and re-organize your life.

This will help to release pressure that can come from trying to do everything at once.

Steps to help protect yourself from stress

  • Eat healthily
  • Be aware of smoking and drinking alcohol
  • Exercise
  • Take time out to relax
  • Be mindful, try to practice mindfulness regularly.
  • Get some restful sleep.
  • Do not be too hard on yourself.

Positivity in Stress

Research has shown that stress can sometimes be positive. It can make you more alert and help you perform better in certain situations. However, stress has only been found to be beneficial if it is short-lived.

Excessive or prolonged stress can contribute to illness such as heart disease and mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.

Behavioral and Emotional Effect of Stress.

Being stressed may lead to  experience different feelings such as anxiety, irritability or low self-esteem, indecisiveness, periods of constant worry, racing thoughts, or repeatedly go over the same things in your head. Some  behavioral changes that may be experienced include; loss of temper more frequently than usual, act irrationally or become more verbally or physically aggressive.

These feelings can feed on each other and produce physical symptoms, which can make you feel even worse. For example, extreme anxiety can make you feel so unwell, that you then worry you have a serious physical condition.

Work-life Balance and Stress

Finding  a work-life balance is very important.

Feeling unhappy about the amount of time you spend at work and neglecting other aspects of life because of work may increase your vulnerability to stress. Increased levels of stress can, if not addressed early enough, lead to burn-out or more severe mental health problems.

Money and Stress

Money and debt issues places huge pressure on us. Developing a healthy relationship with money is one major way relief stress.

Taking the “easy” way in dealing with stress.

You might find that you smoke, drink alcohol or use recreational drugs to reduce stress. However, this often makes problems worse.

  1. Nicotine in cigarettes creates an immediate, temporary, sense of relaxation, which can then lead to withdrawal symptoms and cravings.
  2. Research shows that smoking may increase feelings of anxiety.
  3. Alcohol as a means to manage and cope with difficult feelings, and to temporarily reduce feelings of anxiety. Alcohol may make existing mental health problems worse. It can make you feel more anxious and depressed in the long run.
  1. Prescription drugs, such as tranquillisers and sleeping tablets, which may have been prescribed for very good reasons, can also cause mental and physical health problems if used for long periods of time.

How to help yourself

Stress is a natural reaction to many situations in life, such as work, family, relationships and money problems.

It is important that we manage our stress and keep it at a healthy level to prevent long-term damage to our bodies and minds.

Key things to remember when dealing with stress;

  1. Seek help and support when you need it
  2. It is okay to ask for professional help. If you feel that you are struggling to manage on your own, then you can reach out. It is important to know that you can get help as soon as possible, and that you deserve to get better.

 Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (this is a type of therapy that works by helping you to understand that your thoughts and actions can affect the way you feel) and Mindfulness based approaches are known to help reduce stress. There are also a number of voluntary organizations which can help you to tackle the causes of stress and advise you about ways to get better.


Facilitator: Toluse Dove Francis

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