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Fact Sheet: Stress

What is stress?


  • Stress is a natural response, both psychologically and physically to the demands placed on us in daily life whether it is the pressure of academic performance, the impact of traumatic events or the adjustments that accompany life changes. It manifests as a complex reaction involving physical, emotional, mental, and behavioural responses to any alteration to our usual circumstances.

  • Stress is a deeply personal experience, varying from person to person. What one individual may find stressful might not affect another. Stress arises when we encounter situations that we perceive as demanding. The feeling of stress emerges when we believe we cannot cope or feel insufficient to meet the demands placed upon us.

  • When we are confronted with situations that challenge us, we trigger the stress response known as ‘fight or flight’

  • A certain level of stress is essential in our lives and isn’t therefore entirely negative Stress can serve as a source of stimulation and motivation. It provides the energy needed to exert ourselves, encouraging us to strive harder and remain alert. For example, when we face exams, driving tests or going for an interview.


What does stress feel like?

  • Mentally we can struggle with memory lapses, unease, mental fog, difficulty concentrating, tiredness, overthinking or an active mind that then can affect our sleep.

  • Physically we can feel tense, have aches and pains and struggle to sleep. We can have changes in appetite and suffer from headaches and digestive issues.

  • Emotionally we can feel anxious, irritable, overwhelmed and find ourselves worrying excessively.

  • Socially we can struggle with social withdrawal, loneliness, and avoidance of social settings.

  • ​We can have outbursts and turn to unhelpful coping mechanisms such as alcohol and/or drugs.


What to do if you are feeling stressed?

Effectively managing stress needs practice but can be done over time through positive thinking, maintaining an optimistic outlook and challenging negative thought patterns. You may find some of the following strategies helpful:

  • Physical – exercising regularly which can help diffuse some of the tension we feel with stress. Eating healthier, limiting alcohol and smoking. Keeping your caffeine intake to a minimum and ensuring you are getting enough rest and sleep.

  • Environmental – ensuring you have a robust social support system whether at home, school, or work.

  • Psychological – effective time management, establishing realistic expectations for yourself and others, learning relaxation methods such as deep breathing and muscle relaxation. Ensure you incorporate humour and fun into your life.


You may find it helpful to reach out for support if you have feelings of being trapped, as though there is nowhere to turn, and you are excessively worrying, and it is impacting your life e.g. schoolwork/concentration.


Remember Youthline is here and engaging in counselling provides an opportunity to gain valuable insights into your stressors and to recognise specific aspects of your life contributing to overwhelm:

  • A Youthline counsellor can help you to explore and understand what is causing your stress.

  • Your counselling sessions are a place where you can offload and be honest with how you are feeling.

  • It provides a safe and comfortable environment once a week just for you.

  • It gives you a space to work through your worries that overwhelm you and cause you to•

  • feel stressed.

Helpful Links & Resources

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Genuinely life changing and freeing coming to Youthline.  It has helped me to sort through a lot of deep issues.  I feel like a completely different person.

If you want to learn more about your feelings, and find more information and resources please click below:

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