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 coronavirus information hub. And our page of coronavirus useful contacts can direct you to more support.

What treatments are there?

Stress isn't a medical diagnosis, so there's no specific treatment for it. However, if you're finding it very hard to cope with things going on in your life and are experiencing lots of signs of stress, there are treatments available that could help. These include:

To access most treatments, the first step is usually to talk to your GP. (See our pages on seeking help for a mental health problem for tips on how to talk to your doctor about your mental health.)

Talking treatments

Talking with a trained professional can help you learn to deal with stress and become more aware of your own thoughts and feelings. Common types of talking treatments which can help with stress are:

  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), which helps you understand your thought patterns, recognise your trigger points and identify positive actions you can take.
  • Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), which combines mindfulness, meditation and yoga with a particular focus on reducing stress. See our page on learning mindfulness for more information.

"Using mindfulness [helps me] to just allow some space to breathe and focus on the present moment."

Medication

Feelings of stress are a reaction to things happening in your life, not a mental health problem, so there's no specific medication for stress. However, there are various medications available which can help to reduce or manage some of the signs of stress.

For example, your doctor might offer to prescribe:

Before deciding to take any drug, it's important to make sure you have all the facts you need to make an informed choice. See our pages on things to consider before taking medication and your right to refuse medication for more information. Our pages on coming off medication give guidance on how to come off medication safely.

Ecotherapy

Ecotherapy is a way of improving your wellbeing and self-esteem by spending time in nature. This can include physical exercise in green spaces or taking part in a gardening or conservation project.

(You can find out more about ecotherapy, including details of local programmes, in our pages on ecotherapy.)

"[It helps me to] spend time outdoors or doing crafts."

Complementary therapies

You may find certain complementary therapies help you manage feelings of stress. These might include:

  • yoga and meditation
  • acupuncture
  • aromatherapy
  • massage.

(See our pages on complementary and alternative therapies for more information.)

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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