01 November, 2023

What is stress?

The team in Willow Grove Adolescent Unit at St Patrick's Mental Health Services (SPMHS) takes a closer look at stress and how we can manage it.

What is stress?

What is stress?

Stress is what we feel when we are worried or uncomfortable about something - it usually happens when we are in a situation that we don't feel we can manage or control. Stress can be a coping strategy to adjust to the changes in our lives. Stress can occur during big life events or even small things. Don’t forget, we are all unique and stress can impact everyone differently.

Is stress bad?

Not all stress is bad; sometimes, it can alert us to something that’s happening. For example, if we are in danger, we will feel stressed, because it is our body’s way of telling us we need to get out of the dangerous situation. We also might feel stressed in a good way, for example, when playing sports or trying something new.

Stress can become a problem when it has a negative impact on our lives and our bodies and our minds.

What causes stress?

There are lots of reasons why we can feel stressed.  

Some examples of stress include:  

  • Arguing with family or friends
  • Worrying about exams
  • Going through big life changes, such as moving house or changing schools
  • Facing social stresses like problems with friends or peers
  • Experiencing negative thoughts or feelings about ourselves
  • Struggling with relationships.

Don’t forget - stress affects everyone differently. Just because our friends are stressed about something, it doesn’t mean we will be stressed, and, in turn, if we are stressed about a situation, it doesn’t mean our friend will be.

How do we know that we’re feeling stressed?

You may feel stress in your body and in your mind. Some examples of how you will experience stress in your body include:

  • Sweating
  • Pounding heart rate
  • Butterflies in your tummy
  • Headaches
  • Low energy
  • Breathing trouble
  • Feeling sick.

You may also experience stress as an emotion and how you are feeling. Ways you can feel stress as an emotion include feeling angry, irritable, or worried.

What can we do if we feel we may be experiencing stress?

If we are feeling overwhelmed, there are lots of things we can do to manage stress.

Some helpful tips include:

  • Getting a good night’s sleep
  • Looking after your physical health
  • Exercising and eating well
  • Planning your day, so it’s not too busy
  • Making time for things you enjoy doing like hobbies, sports or reading
  • Using breathing exercises, meditation or mindfulness to help calm your mind.
  • Writing it out - journaling is a nice way to get your worries out

Using breathing exercises to help you relax. A tip to try is to breathe in and count to four  then breathe out and count to four; this can help in times of stress.

Things to remember:

Things to remember:

The best way to manage stress is to have a balanced life.

Don’t forget - if you are stressed, share it with an adult you trust. Talking to someone is an important first step.

If you have concerns about your mental health and wellbeing or need information on how to support a friend or loved one, a good place to start is to talk to an adult or parent.

You can also speak to your GP or contact organisations like Childline or the Samaritans.

We have some helpful resources to help you learn more about mental health and wellbeing.

Learn about how to be a mental health supporter and more about mental health conditions.

Learn more from our mental health series

Learn more from our mental health series