for better mental health

How to manage stress

Explains what stress is, what might cause it and how it can affect you. Includes information about ways you can help yourself and how to get support.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) is impacting all our lives, and we know that the usual advice might not quite apply. Some ideas for looking after yourself may feel unrealistic right now. And some treatment and support options will be harder to access, or may be unavailable for a while. But we hope that you can still find information here that helps you understand what you're going through, and find a path forward.
You can also find lots of resources in our new coronavirus information hub. And our page of coronavirus useful contacts can direct you to more support.

How can I deal with pressure?

There are various steps you can take to cope with being under pressure. This page gives some tips that people have told us they find useful, but it's important to remember that different things work for different people. Only try what you feel comfortable with.

For example:

Working out what triggers stress for you can help you anticipate problems and think of ways to solve them. Even if you can't avoid these situations, being prepared can help.

Take some time to reflect on events and feelings that could be contributing to your stress (you could do this on your own or with someone you trust). You could consider:

  • Issues that come up regularly, and that you worry about, for example paying a bill or attending an appointment.
  • One-off events that are on your mind a lot, such as moving house or taking an exam.
  • Ongoing stressful events, like being a carer or having problems at work.

You might be surprised to find out just how much you're coping with at once. Remember that not having enough work, activities or change in your life can be just as stressful a situation as having too much to deal with.

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.

  • Identify your best time of day, and do the important tasks that need the most energy and concentration at that time. For example, you might be a morning person or an evening person.
  • Make a list of things you have to do. Arrange them in order of importance, and try to focus on the most urgent first. Some people find creating a timetable useful so they can plan when they can spend time on each task. If your tasks are work related, ask a manager or colleague to help you prioritise. You may be able to push back some tasks until you're feeling less stressed.
  • Set smaller and more achievable targets. When you're under a lot of pressure it's easy to set yourself large targets that are often unachievable. This can make you feel more stressed and if you don't reach them, it can make you feel disappointed and frustrated. Setting smaller more achievable goals can make you feel in more control and you can see your achievements more easily.
  • Vary your activities. Balance interesting tasks with more mundane ones, and stressful tasks with those you find easier or can do more calmly.
  • Try not to do too much at once. If you take on too much, you might find it harder to do any individual task well. This can make you feel like you have even more pressure on you.
  • Take breaks and take things slowly. It might be difficult to do this when you're stressed, but it can make you more productive.
  • Ask someone if they can help. For example, you could ask a friend or family member to help with some of your daily tasks so that you have more time to spend completing your tasks that are causing you to feel stressed.

Although there will probably lots of things in your life that you can't do anything about, there might still be some practical ways you could to resolve or improve some of the issues that are putting pressure on you. You might find it helpful to read our information on:

Housing and finances

Work and student life

Family and personal life

It's not easy, but accepting that there are some things happening to you that you probably can't do anything about will help you focus your time and energy more productively.

"Sometimes I take a minute to 'reply' to my stressy thoughts... it's hard to be stressed when you've got things in perspective! Most of the things I worry about are either things I can't change or things which aren't earth-shatteringly important."

This information was published in November 2017. We will revise it in 2020.

References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.

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