Managing stress

Managing stress is easier when you know what it is. Find out what it looks like when you’re stress is getting out of control, and what to do to manage stress when it’s a problem.

Signs this might be a problem…

  • you feel angry, irritable or moody
  • you’re avoiding people
  • you feel tired and exhausted
  • sleeping is hard
  • you’re having headache, backache, or stomach problems
Aerial view of skater boy

What is stress?

Before you can get started managing stress, you should understand what it is. Stress is the body's way of rising to a challenge and preparing to meet a tough situation with focus, strength, stamina, and heightened alertness. The human body responds to events that provoke stress (stressors) by activating the nervous system and specific hormones, releasing more of the hormones adrenaline and cortisol into the bloodstream. These hormones speed up heart rate, breathing rate, blood pressure, and metabolism.

The physical changes prepare you to react quickly and effectively to handle the pressure of the moment. This natural reaction is known as the stress response. Working properly, the body's stress response improves your ability to perform well under pressure.

Signs you need to start managing your stress

If you’re stressed out, some of these things might start happening to you:

The way you might feel:

  • hostile, angry, or irritable
  • anxious
  • like avoiding people
  • moody or frustrated with things that normally don't bother you
  • worthless or doubting your abilities

Physical effects:

  • upset stomach, diarrhoea, or indigestion
  • headache
  • backache
  • having a hard time sleeping
  • eating more or less than normal
  • raised heart-rate
You might get only a few of these things, but any of them could be a sign your stress is getting out of control.

What to do about it

If you’re feeling stressed out and it’s getting in the way of everyday life, the sooner you start doing something about it the better you’re going to feel. Check out our suggestions on ways to relax.

If nothing’s helping, check to see if something more serious is going on. Sometimes when stress doesn’t go away, no matter what you do, it is a sign that there is something more serious going on. Being permanently stressed may mean you have a problem you can’t resolve, or you’re not coping very well. Check out the fact sheets on feeling stressed out all the time, or feeling overwhelmed, for more info on what might be going on.

What can I do now?

  • Organise to meet up with your mates, even if you don’t feel like it
  • Don’t use alcohol and drugs to cope
  • Try not to procrastinate 
Last reviewed: 21 July, 2014
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