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.
Managing stress and building resilience
Being prepared for periods of stress can make it easier to get through them. And knowing how to manage our wellbeing can help us recover after a stressful event. Some of us may refer to our ability to manage stress as our resilience.
There are things we can try to build our resilience against stress. But there are also factors that might make it harder to be resilient, such as experiencing discrimination or lacking support.
This page has information on:
The terms 'resilience' and 'managing stress' can mean different things to different people. We might understand them differently because our experiences shape how we feel stress, and how easily we can respond to it.
Some people may think that our response to stress is something that we can all easily control. But this is not true. There are some causes of stress that are beyond our control. And some ways of managing stress and building resilience are not always available to us.
This makes dealing with stress very personal – it may be harder for some of us than for others. Some experiences that can make it more difficult include:
- Having a long-term physical health condition
- Having a mental health problem
- Experiencing discrimination and hate, including racism, homophobia, biphobia or transphobia
- Living far away from family or friends, or having difficult relationships with them
- Experiencing loneliness
- Experiencing poverty and money worries, including debt or problems with benefits
- Living in an area with poor access to services like healthcare, public transport and green spaces
- Being a single parent
- Being a carer
- Having poor quality housing
- Lacking safety and protection, such as living in areas with poor policing
Research shows that it is easier to develop resilience if we don't face these barriers. But many of these things are difficult or impossible to change.
Remember: if you face these barriers, this is not your fault. And it is not up to you to remove these barriers yourself.
I believe that the root cause of my anxiety and stress was racism. This was further exacerbated by experiencing microaggressions at school and university.
Look after your wellbeing
Taking care of your wellbeing can help you feel more able to manage stress. Different things will work for different people, but these are some ideas you could try:
- Be kind to yourself. Learning to be kinder to yourself can help with how you feel in different situations. Try to take breaks in your day for things you enjoy. And reward yourself for your achievements, even if they seem small.
- Try to find time to relax. This might feel hard if you can't do anything to stop a situation that is making you stressed. But if you can allow yourself a short break, this can help with how you feel. See our pages on relaxation for some tips and exercises.
- Develop your interests and hobbies. Spending time on things you enjoy could help distract you from a stressful situation. If stress is making you feel lonely or isolated, shared hobbies can also be a good way to meet new people.
- Spend time in nature. This can help to reduce stress and improve wellbeing. You could try going for a walk in a green space, taking care of indoor plants, or spending time with animals. Our nature and mental health pages have more information.
- Look after your physical health. Getting enough sleep, staying physically active and eating a balanced diet can make stress easier to manage. Stress can sometimes make these things difficult to look after. But even small changes can make a big difference.
See our pages on wellbeing for more tips to support yourself.
My advice would be if you’re feeling stressed, be kind to yourself, everything starts with you.
Build your support network
Research shows that having a good support network can help to build resilience and make stress easier to manage. Support from people you trust can make stressful situations easier to manage.
This support could include:
- Friends and family. Sometimes telling the people close to you how you're feeling can make a big difference. They might be able to help with some of the things causing you stress.
- Support at work. For example, this may be from your manager, human resources (HR) department, union representatives or employee assistance scheme. Your wellbeing is important and responsible employers should take it seriously. If you're worried that your workplace might not be supportive, our page on work and stress has some guidance that may help. The Health and Safety Executive has information on work-related stress that may also help.
- Support at university or college. For example, this could be from your tutors, student union or student services. See our pages on student life for more tips on getting support as a student.
- Peer support. If you're finding things hard, talking to people who have similar feelings or experiences can help. This could be face-to-face at a peer support group, or through an online community like Mind's Side by Side. See our pages on peer support to find out more.
The brain is like an engine; if you run it too hot all day, every day without checking the oil and water, it breaks.
Identify your triggers
Working out what may trigger stress can help you prepare for it. Even if you can't avoid these situations, being prepared can help. Knowing what you can and cannot change could help you work out the best way to deal with stress.
Take some time to think about situations that might make you feel stressed. You could do this on your own or with someone you trust. You could consider:
- Situations that come up often and that you worry about, such as paying a bill or attending an appointment.
- One-off events that are on your mind a lot, like moving house or taking an exam.
- Ongoing stressful events, like being a carer or experiencing discrimination.
- Something that you are worried about happening again, such as going back to a place that you had a bad experience.
Reflecting on these things may sometimes be upsetting. If remembering or talking about these experiences makes you feel worse, you can stop.
Our pages on trauma have more information on stressful or frightening events that may be difficult to talk about.
I think it’s very important to acknowledge your feelings. Be honest with how you’re feeling. If you’re not happy in any situation, it’s okay to leave. It’s also okay to ask for help.
Stressed about exams? We have info for young people to help you cope with exam stress at school or college
Organise your time
Some of us may feel stressed because we have a lot of things to manage in our lives. In this case, changing the way we organise our time can help us feel more in control.
If you think this may help, you could:
- Try to identify when you have the most energy, such as in the morning or in the evening. If you can, do your most important tasks around that time of day, to help you concentrate better.
- Make a list of things you have to do. Arrange them in order of importance. Try to focus on the most urgent thing first. You might find it helpful to create a timetable, planning when to spend time on each task.
- Set smaller, achievable targets. When we feel stressed, it's easy to set ourselves large or unrealistic goals. This might be to try to overcome the situation that is making us feel stressed. But often, this can make us feel more stressed and frustrated, if we don't reach the targets we set. Setting smaller, more achievable goals can help us feel more satisfied and in control.
- Vary your activities. Try to balance boring tasks with more interesting ones. And mix up stressful tasks with those you find easier, or that you 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 could make you feel even more stressed.
- Be clear with others about what you can take on. In some situations, it might not always be possible to say no to things, or tell people exactly how you feel. But if you can, let people know if their demands are unreasonable or unrealistic.
- Have breaks and take things slowly. It might be difficult to do this when you're stressed. But it can help to deal with things better and get through a stressful situation.
- Ask someone if they can help. For example, you could ask a friend or family member to help with some of your daily tasks. This can give you more time to spend on any tasks that are making you stressed.
I need to take on enough challenges to keep me interested and engaged with the world, but not too many to the point where I am exhausted.
Take action in your community
Sometimes, our stress might be caused or made worse by problems in our community, such as lack of access to services. Taking action against these problems can help how we feel in ourselves, as well as supporting others.
When we are very stressed, these things might not feel possible. And at any time, they might feel tiring or stressful themselves. But if you feel able to do so, some things you could try include:
- Mind campaigns. Visit our campaigns page to find out how we are campaigning for change, and how to become a campaigner.
- Community groups. There might be campaigns or volunteering projects to improve your local area and community. Do IT has information on volunteer groups in your area. Or visit myCommunity for information on how to set up a community group.
- Take part in local decisions. Your area may have regular meetings of local, parish or town councils. You can often attend these meetings to have a say in decisions affecting your community. The UK Government website has a tool to find your local council.
- Write to your MP. You can contact your local member of parliament (MP) to tell them about a problem in your area and ask them to take action. The UK Parliament website has information on when and how to contact an MP.
Support for causes of stress
There may be different areas of your life that make you feel stressed. Some of these might feel difficult to change on your own, or without support and advice on what to do next.
We have lots of information to help you find support in different areas of your life, including:
This information was published in March 2022. We will revise it in 2025.
References and bibliography available on request.
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