A person sitting on the ground with a stress speech bubble near them

Understanding stress

Stress is not a mental health condition. It’s a feeling of being under pressure. Sometimes stress can be good for you, and it can help you to achieve something. This might be studying for exams or going for a job interview. 

Being under a lot of stress for a long time can start to affect your mental health, and it can lead to you burning out. This is when you feel exhausted physically and emotionally. 

Causes of stress 

Stress causes your body to produce the hormones including cortisol and adrenaline. This is also called the flight, flight, or freeze response.  

Stress can happen when you feel a threat, and that can be big or small. This could be an event in your life, if you feel unsafe, or feel negatively about yourself.  

Stress does not have to be something big. Lots of small things can stress you out too. 

Different things that can make you feel stressed: 

  • falling out with your friends 
  • the death of someone you know 
  • moving house 
  • starting a new school 
  • exams 
  • worrying about something 
  • being bullied 
  • being a young carer 
  • emotional or physical abuse 

How does it affect your mental health 

Stress can appear in different ways. It might be physical or emotional.  

Emotional signs can be that you might feel: 

  • anxious 
  • depressed 
  • moody 
  • overwhelmed 

Physical signs of stress can be things like: 

  • sleep issues 
  • lack of concentration 
  • dizziness 
  • body aches 

Stress relief  

There are lots of different ways you can deal with stress. You might feel angry, want to shout, or throw things. Or you might become very quiet or isolated.  

To help deal with how you are feeling, you can: 

  • be aware – by understanding what makes you feel stressed, you can deal with it better 
  • understand your triggers – by looking at what causes your stress, you can learn and see when you might feel stressed or why  
  • look after yourself – talking to friends is a good way to help you feel connected 
  • relax – meditation and mindfulness are a good way to help focus and take a break from whatever is stressing you out 

Getting help for stress 

If you find your stress is not getting better, it’s important to get some help. An adult you trust might be able to help you access support.  

You could try talking to your: 

  • teacher 
  • parents or carers 
  • guidance / pastoral teacher 
  • school counsellor (if your school has one) 
  • doctor