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How we can protect ourselves from stress

This week is ‘Stress Awareness Week’ with an aim of raising awareness of stress prevention and campaigning against the stigma associated with stress and mental health issues.

Everyone has stress. Some stress is good for us, it helps us to respond to changes in life and is our body’s way of protecting itself from harm. Since the start of the pandemic 65% of us have felt more stressed than usual (*Stress Management Society) and too much stress causes harm to our health and relationships and we need to be able to identify when stress is impacting our physical and mental health.

What is Stress

Stress is a feeling of being under abnormal pressure which can come from different areas of our day to day lives. This could be an increased workload, a period of change, financial worries or an argument with a friend of family member. Often stress will have a cumulative effect with each stressor building and making us feel more stressed. When we are particularly stressed we can be affected in different ways and our body might create a stress response which can cause physical symptoms.

How can I identify the signs of stress?

It is normal to experience stress and we will all experience stress in our life, however when it starts to impact our health and wellbeing it is important to recognise this and tackle it as soon as possible. There are a number of common signs and symptoms you can look out for to indicate you might be stressed:

  • feelings of constant worry or anxiety

  • feelings of being overwhelmed

  • difficulty concentrating

  • mood swings or changes in mood

  • irritability or having a short temper

  • difficulty relaxing

  • depression

  • low self-esteem

  • eating more or less than usual

  • changes in your sleeping habits

  • using alcohol, tobacco or illegal drugs to relax

  • aches and pains, particularly muscle tension

How can I protect myself from stress?

  • Realise when stress is causing a problem - try to make the connection between feeling tired or ill and the pressure you are faced with and look for physical symptoms of stress.

  • Identify the causes - try to identify the underlying causes by sorting possible reasons for stress into:

    1. Those with a practical solution

    2. Those that will get better given time

    3. Those you can’t do anything about

Try to focus on those areas where there is a solution and let those you cannot control go.

  • Review your lifestyle - think about are you taking on too much or is there a way you can release some of the pressure on yourself or prioritise what you need to do?

  • Don’t be so hard on yourself - try to keep things in perspective, talk to yourself in a positive and kind way, put a bad day behind you and look towards the next day and take time to appreciate what is positive in your life and what you are grateful for.

  • Look after yourself - looking after your physical health can support with mental wellbeing and reduce stress, this includes:

    1. Eat healthily - there is evidence to suggest that our diet can affect our mood and by eating healthily can improve how we are feeling.

    2. Be aware of smoking and drinking alcohol - even those these might seem to reduce tension, they often make the problems worse.

    3. Exercise - being active can be an effective way of relieving stress.

    4. Take time for you - take time to relax and prioritise self care and doing things that you enjoy.

    5. Get enough sleep - try to get 7-9 hours sleep per night to allow your body to recover and prepare for the next day.

If you would like to talk through how else we can support your organisation and your teams please do get in touch with our Director of Wellbeing, Gemma Carter-Morris on

Gemma Morris, Director of Wellbeing, Next Steps Consulting

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