The first Wednesday in November is National Stress Awareness Day. This is an opportunity to think about the effects of stress, physically and mentally, as well as how we can manage feelings of stress.

There are many reasons we can feel stressed, whether it’s deadlines for work, change in our relationships or pressures we may be putting on ourselves. Sometimes stress can be useful. It can motivate us to sort things out or get something done.

However, there are times when stresses can pile up, or when a prolonged period of stress can really impact on us, leaving us feeling unable to cope. This is when we need to consider the impact stress is having on us mentally and physically.

Stress can affect our mental health and, in some cases, make life feel like it’s not worth living. It can leave us with racing or foggy thoughts. We might feel overwhelmed, anxious, irritable or confused. Some people struggle with headaches or migraines as a result of stress. Many might significantly change their behaviour or responses to situations.

It’s important to remember that stress can also affect our physical health too. It can raise blood pressure, cause heart problems, lead to stomach issues, obesity, eating problems and strokes. These things can have a significant impact on your life and, in some cases, can even be life threatening.

The ability to identify signs you are stressed, manage these feelings and look after yourself is therefore essential, non-negotiable and indispensable. If you are struggling, you could make an appointment to see your GP or speak to a trusted friend/family member. Sometimes talking about stress can help you see the causes more clearly.

It’s also important to make time for yourself to feel less stressed and more relaxed. In order to feel better, ask yourself – what do you like to do? And if you’ve been feeling stressed for a long time and forgotten about relaxing – what did you used to enjoy before (even as a child)?

These activities may include:

  • Reading a book
  • Watching TV
  • Taking a bath
  • Going for a walk
  • Enjoying time in nature
  • Listening to music, audiobooks or podcasts
  • Sleeping
  • Catching up with friends
  • Saying no things (it’s OK to say no and cancel things if you don’t feel up to it right now)
  • Engaging in a hobby
  • Cooking some food or baking

None of these ideas are rocket science and that’s actually the point. These activities should be wholesome, enjoyable and, above all, something to slow us down, to bring us back into the moment. If you’re relaxing by doing something too strenuous or too taxing you’re not actually relaxing and you won’t be able to rest and recuperate. Rest and recuperation is so essential for body and mind.

Managing stress is hard. Sometimes there are factors that are simply out of control. But at these times it’s even more important to identify the things that are in our control, that we can change or address. One of the key themes here is making time for ourselves. If we make time to talk, or rest, or try to enjoy ourselves, this can be the sort of thing that can help us get through the most stressful times.

If you are struggling with stress and this is contributing to thoughts of suicide, you can contact HOPELINE247 on 0800 068 4141, via text on 88247 or via email on

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