Stress Awareness Month


Stress: All the signs & all the support

Stress has always been part of human life – it’s helped us survive over thousands of years. 
But too much of it is a bad thing.


Stress that protects

When we first lived in the wild, stress protected us from threats around us – like animals, floods or other humans who wanted to harm us. We call this the fight-or-flight response. It makes us alert & ready to react - to run or to fight. Once the danger has passed, our stress levels drop down & we relax.


Stress that harms us

Our world has changed so much since then, but that ancient fight-or-flight reaction is still with us: it gets our heart rate & breathing up, and tenses up our muscles. When we’re faced with constant stress every day, that stress response stays turned on, so the response that’s meant to save us ends up harming us.


A little stress is good for you

A little bit of stress can do a lot of good– we call this positive stress & it keeps us on our toes! It can help us focus in an exam or stop us crashing into another car. But the stress shouldn’t last too long. Once the moment has passed, your heart rate should return to normal & your muscles should relax. If they don’t, stress can turn toxic.


The source of our stress

Stress triggers are different for different people. What is stress-free for one person may cause real distress in someone else–like, say, entering a room full of strangers or public speaking.

Other causes of stress can be more or less severe, from minor work pressures to life-changing trauma. Here are some of the triggers:


  • Work overload & burnout, lack of power at work, toxic co-workers

  • Dangerous work (police, security or military)

  • Abusive relationships, divorce, child 
custody battles

  • Poverty & homelessness

  • War & ongoing conflict

  • Being a victim of crime

  • Discrimination (racism, sexism, ageism)

  • Gender-based violence & child abuse

  • Floods, earthquakes & other natural disasters

  • Money worries & debt

  • Having a serious illness or caring for a 
sick person

  • 24/7 news & social media feeds

  • Moving house & immigrating

  • Losing a loved one

  • Losing your job

  • Car accident

When faced with stress triggers like this, our bodies do not get a chance to relax & reset, and we stay in a state of fight or flight. This can lead to serious health issues:

  • Long-term body aches

  • High blood pressure

  • Higher risk of heart attack & stroke

  • Tension headaches

  • Anxiety & panic attacks

  • Insomnia & other sleep issues

  • Depression, lack of energy & fatigue

  • Acne, eczema & other skin conditions

  • Weight gain or loss

  • Nausea, gut issues & stomach ulcers

  • Type 2 diabetes

  • Osteoporosis

  • Brain fog & memory problems

  • A weakened immune system & risk 
of infections


How to stress less

There are many ways to manage your stress levels. Start with some small lifestyle changes that can make a huge difference:

  • Exercise every day – it’s a great stress buster

  • Learn to do breathwork & practice meditation

  • Eat a healthy diet with lots of fresh veg & whole grains

  • Get enough sleep – don’t eat or go on screens at least 2 hours before bedtime

  • Connect with friends & family in person

  • Join a religious community, sports league or hobby group

  • Do a digital detox – stay away from all screens or limit your screen time

  • Take a break from breaking news & 
disturbing images

  • Drink enough water each day

  • Avoid sugary or caffeine-rich drinks

  • Stay away from alcohol, smoking, vaping & other addictive substances

  • Practice self-care & set aside time to do something that gives you joy - or to do absolutely nothing!


If you’re struggling to manage your stress, you’re not eating or sleeping properly, have panic attacks or feelings of depression & exhaustion, get help immediately from a mental health professional. You can start by chatting to a nurse on the Unu app.