Stress - Self-help
How can I help myself?
The first step in tackling stress is to work out what is causing it. Once you know this, it should be easier to deal with the situation. It will help to focus on the things you can change.
If you don’t know what is making you stressed, it might help to keep a ‘stress diary’ for a few weeks. You could write down when you feel stressed. You should include what happens just before or after you feel stressed. There is a template for a stress diary at the end of this section.
Sara has a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Recently she has started drinking more alcohol and has had difficulty sleeping. She is not sure why. A friend suggests that she keeps a stress diary and Sara does this. Sara realises that she feels stressed because she is not working. She is worried that she will not be able to find a job. Sara has two children and one of them is unwell at the moment. Sara also has an interview coming up about her benefits entitlement. Sara finds that things are getting too much for her to deal with and she feels stressed. Writing things down has helped Sara see what is causing her stress. She gets advice about her benefits from her local Citizens Advice centre so she understands what benefits she is eligible for. She makes an appointment with an employment agency for people with disabilities. She then asks her mother for help looking after her children. Now she feels more on top of things and starts to sleep better.
Below are some ideas about how to reduce stress.
Get practical advice
If you can change the thing that is causing you stress you could get advice about how to do this. There are various places you can get practical advice on different issues. It may be hard to know where to start. An advice service could give you some guidance. If you need advice about an issue like housing, benefits, money or employment speaking to an expert may help. You can find details of different organisations that give practical advice in the ‘Useful contacts’ section at the end of this section.
Manage your money
If money is tight, this can cause stress. If you struggle to pay your bills you could get into debt. You could reduce this by making a budget sheet. This would help you work out what you can afford to pay. If you are worried about your debts there are places that you can get advice and support. You can find more information about options to deal with debt here.
Plan your time
If you plan your time this can make you feel more in control of things. Here are some ideas that could help you do this:
- write lists of what you need to do,
- prioritise the most important tasks,
- share tasks with others if you can,
- take action - don't put things off, and
- set yourself steps and goals for complicated tasks.
Talk to someone
Telling someone how you are feeling may help with stress. It can help to ‘offload’ your worries. You may feel comfortable talking to someone you know. Or you might prefer to talk to someone who doesn’t know you. You could call an emotional support line. We have listed some of these at the end of this section.
Make lifestyle changes
Limit your caffeine intake
Coffee, tea, energy drinks and chocolate contain caffeine. Caffeine may make stress worse in some people. You could try limiting how much caffeine you have. You could have herbal tea instead. Reducing your caffeine intake might also help you sleep better.
Eat a balanced diet
Eating a healthy and balanced diet is good for your mental and physical health. There is more information about this here.
Exercise can relieve stress. It can also help you to stay healthy. There are lots of ways to exercise, and people enjoy different things. You could try cycling, walking, running or going to the gym. You could join a sports team. Doing housework or gardening is also a way to exercise.
Get enough sleep
It can be frustrating not to be able to sleep. Sleep problems can have a big effect on us and can make mental health problems worse. Sleeping badly can also increase stress. You can talk to your doctor if you have a problem with sleep. There are some things you can do to try to get better sleep, such as getting into a better routine.
Do something nice for yourself every day
It is important to do some things because you want to, not because you have to. This could include reading a book, watching a film or eating something you enjoy.
Mindfulness is being aware of the present moment and paying attention to this. It can be helpful for people who are stressed and anxious. If you are stressed you may be worry about the future or go over and over the past. If you practice mindfulness you try to focus on the ‘here-and-now’. You can find an online mindfulness course Be Mindful here.
Use relaxation techniques
Relaxation can help you to deal with stress you have. It can also stop you getting stressed. Some people relax using meditation, aromatherapy or yoga.
You can get more information on healthy eating, exercise and sleep in our ‘Good health guide’.
Need practical advice & info? We can help.
Contact our Advice team about mental health & related issues
0300 5000 927 Monday - Friday 9.30am - 4pm, not including bank holidays