International Stress Awareness Week – What is stress and how can we help ourselves when dealing with it?

This year, around 1 in 6 adults in the UK experienced some form of depression. Of these adults, 83% reported that their mental wellbeing was most commonly affected by feeling stressed or anxious. (Coronavirus and depression in adults, Great Britain. Office for National Statistics, July – August 2021)

What is stress and how does it feel?

Stress is our emotional and physical response to pressure. We feel stressed when we have too many demands, and have too few resources to cope. That pressure can include life events, illness (ourselves or a loved one) our living conditions, work, home and family, study, lack of some necessity. On top of all these potential life stressors other factors include; neglecting ourselves by putting everything and everyone else first, doing too much, and setting ourselves impossible expectations and the ‘shoulds’ and ‘musts’ rules we live our everyday life by.

So when we consider all these factors, is it any wonder that so many of us are feeling stressed right now?! During the past 18 months, we have been living amongst a global pandemic that has resulted in many changes and restrictions.

Whatever your situation is at the moment; your living arrangements, your working situation, supporting immediate and the wider family – this can be a lot to deal with right now!

How can we tell that we / or others are stressed:

Psychological Signs Emotional Signs Physical Signs Behavioural Signs
• Depression & Anxiety
• Insomnia
• Worrying
• Lack of concentration
• Tearful
• Irritable
• Angry
• Lack of confidence
• Aches and pains
• Constipation / diarrhoea
• Weight loss or gain
• Heart palpitations
• Increased alcohol use
• Social withdrawal
• Relationship problems
• Aggressive outbursts

It’s important that we can recognise these symptoms and start to reduce some of the demands and increase our resources to help us cope with stressful events.

What can we do to help

1. Consider what demands you can reduce, or what you can ask others to help with.

Make a list of priorities and decide how you can limit your responsibilities and what doesn’t need your attention right now. Remind yourself that it is ok the say ‘no’

2. Make time for yourself each day.

When we feel stressed, we tend to focus on activities where we feel a sense of achievement, however it is important to spend time doing things that are relaxing, enjoyable and fun.

3. Journaling.

Write down your thoughts and feelings to get them out of your head.

4. Take everything one step at a time.

Try to take everything just take one step at a time by focusing on what we can control now. We often feel –stressed when we try to plan too far ahead.

5. Learn and practice positive self-talk.

Encourage yourself, tell yourself: ‘I can do this, I’ve done it before, this will pass’ – find a positive coping statement that works for you, write it down and memorise it for when you need it.

6. Relaxation techniques.

Try different ones and find one that works for you, this may be meditation or mindfulness. There are many apps that can guide you through these techniques such as Headspace and Calm.

7. Stay connected with others.

Whether this be arranging regular visits, catch-ups or scheduling in a weekly video or phone call with your loved ones.

8. Exercise and eat a balanced diet.

Engaging in physical exercise is great for your physical and mental health, whether this be attending a gym class, or simply getting outdoors for a walk in the fresh air.

Ensuring that your diet includes plenty of fruit and vegetables and remembering to drink water can be also highly beneficial to reducing stress. Often, when we are stressed we tend to crave high fat / carb foods and also drink more caffeine and alcohol, however this can compound the problem.

9. Be kind to yourself.

The most important step! We have been living in extraordinary times so it’s important to take the time to be kind together and remember that you are doing your best in your current situation.

10. Talk to someone.

Talking to someone else about how you’re feeling can often feel like a weight off your shoulders, perhaps this could be someone that you are close to, your family or friends, or anyone who you feel comfortable with.

If you would prefer to speak to someone with professional experience, we have qualified therapists who can help you to understand and manage symptoms of stress.

All of our therapies are available at our clinics in York, Manchester and online. If you would like to find out more please get in touch by using the form below, or emailing or