We all talk about stress, but we’re not always clear about what it is. Stress comes from both the good and the bad things that happen to us. If we didn’t feel any stress, we wouldn’t be alive! Stress may feel overwhelming at times, but there are many strategies to help you take control.
Stress is the body’s response to a real or perceived threat. That response is meant to get people ready for some kind of action to get them out of danger. But most of the threats people face today aren’t something that they can fight or run away from. These threats are usually problems that people have to work through.
Some stress can be a good thing. It can motivate us to focus on a task or take action and solve a problem. In this situation, stress is manageable and even helpful.
When stress is unhelpful, people may feel overwhelmed or feel like they can’t possibly fix the problem. In these cases, some people avoid dealing with the original problem altogether, which may make the problem—and stress— worse. It can be very hard to concentrate, make decisions, and feel confident when a person experiences a lot of stress. Many people experience physical sensations like sweating, a racing heart, or tense muscles. Over time, stress can also have a big impact on physical health. Sleep difficulties and headaches are common problems related to stress. People are also more likely to get sick when they’re experiencing a lot of stress.
Stress is a reaction to a situation—it isn’t about the actual situation. We usually feel stressed when we think that the demands of the situation are greater than our resources to deal with that situation. For example, someone who feels comfortable speaking in public may not worry about giving a presentation, while someone who isn’t confident in their skills may feel a lot of stress about an upcoming presentation. Common sources of stress may include major life events, like moving or changing jobs. Long-term worries, like a long-term illness or parenting, can also feel stressful. Even daily hassles like dealing with traffic can be a source of stress.
Taking action is the first step. Ignoring the effects of stress can lead to other mental health problems.
There is no one right way to deal with stress. The tips below are common strategies that are helpful for many people. Try them out and see what works best for you. Remember to look at both short-term and long-term solutions when you’re dealing with stress.
Stress is part of being human—no one can eliminate all stress from their life or prevent stress from ever happening in the future. The goal of stress management is to bounce back from problems or challenges and maintain wellness. All of the above strategies can help you take control of stress so it doesn’t control you in the future. Remember to practice them often, even when you’re not feeling stressed. That way, you’ll know exactly what works for you. It’s also much easier to deal with difficulties when you’re in control and know that you can deal with whatever comes up.
Contact a community organization like the Canadian Mental Health Association to learn more about support and resources in your area.
Founded in 1918, the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) is the most established, most extensive community mental health organization in Canada. Through a presence in hundreds of neighbourhoods across every province, CMHA provides advocacy and resources that help to prevent mental health problems and illnesses, support recovery and resilience, and enable all Canadians to flourish and thrive.