Stress and anxiety

Everyone feels stressed sometimes and it can be useful and motivate your mind. But if you feel too much stress, too often, and can't calm down, then there may be a problem
Young woman sat in front of a crumbling brick wall

Stress

Everyone can get stressed about all types of things, such as bullying, exams, finding a job, and relationships with families, carers and friends.. Being anxious about exams, school, work or finding a job is natural. These are important things which will have a big effect on your future.

Stress can be helpful – for example when it motivates you to study hard, or try your best. It can also cause health problems, especially if you feel stressed most or all of the time.

Three things that can help you deal with stressful situations are:

  • Talking to friends and family
  • Taking time to relax
  • Getting enough sleep

If you are getting too stressed, consider getting some kind of support. Most young people will be able to improve their stress levels themselves, but some need a bit of extra help. Start by talking to your School Health Nurse.

Crucial: it's not possible to get rid of stress, but you can change how you react to it, and find better ways to cope. Download the Mindshift App for inspiration, practical strategies, quick meditations and more.

Anxiety

Anxiety and stress are closely related. Symptoms of anxiety include butterflies in the tummy, trembling, heart palpitations or difficulty sleeping. Most people feel this way sometimes. Common stress points are before interviews, during exams, and when we get into trouble. If you are feeling this way often, it could be a warning that there is something in your life you need to change. This could be how you look after your feelings, or it could be a problem in your life.

These simple actions can help:

  • Talk back to yourself in a positive way.
  • Answer every negative thought with a positive one.
  • Distract yourself from the problem, and instead make plans to do something fun or positive.
  • Smile, relax, de-stress, breathe and say to yourself "I'll be OK".

Learning how to change your response to stresses can be difficult and take time, but it is worth it. The skills you learn to manage anxiety will help you with everything in your life, from focusing on study to succeeding in a job interview. 

Take Action: The AnxietyBC Youth Site includes practical exercises, ways to improve your thinking, mindfulness exercises and videos of other young people talking about their experiences of conquering anxiety.

Panic Attacks

Very intense periods of anxiety, sometimes called panic attacks, can include palpitations, sweating, feeling faint and more. Some people even think they are having a heart attack. Panic attacks can by triggered by something, but some may seem to come from nowhere. Because panic attacks feel so scary, you can get panic attacks about getting panic attacks.

If you feel anxiety starting to peak:

  • Close your eyes and focus only on your breathing.
  • Breathe in as slowly, deeply and gently as you can, through your nose (count to five, if you can).
  • Breathe out slowly, deeply and gently through your mouth (count to five if you can).
  • Repeat as needed (a few breaths to twenty minutes).

Panic attacks can be very frightening but learning to manage one is your first step to solving them all. If you need it, there is support available to help you. Talk to your School health nurse or your GP, or visit the Oxford Health website to find out where to get local support.

Instant expert: Hear from other young people and find advice information and tools to help to help with Stress form The Mix.  

Self-help

Everyone is different, so for different people, different things will work. But here are some things that are proven to help most people.

Sort out your sleep

Teenagers need more sleep than adults. This is because the teenage brain is growing and changing. Sleep helps reinforce memories, lowers stress levels and boosts study and work capability. You need eight hours, and it needs to be uninterrupted. Here's how:

  • Set a bed-time: Count back from when you need to wake up for your bed time and start getting ready at least half an hour before that time.
  • Wind down before bed: Put your phone onto charge, turn off all screens and devices and do something relaxing.
  • Drift off to sleep: Most people find a quiet, dark room is enough, but some people find quiet music, pink noise or gentle light helps.

Finding out what works for you is the key with getting better sleep. Some people keep a sleep diary to help with this. You can also use it to write down your dreams.

Crucial: Getting up at a regular time also helps, and not just because you get to school, college or your job on time. It helps set your circadian rhythm, which tells you when you should be active and when you should be sleepy.  Ten tips for getting off to sleep from the NHS.

Stay engaged and stick to your routine

Saying no to things like going out, going to school or college or going to your job is strongly associated with things like depression and anxiety getting worse.

Setting a routine and sticking to it, even when it feels horrible, hopeless or terrifying seems to help a lot of people. People who respond to stress and anxiety by stopping doing things seem to suffer more, and take longer to recover. Those who say yes to learning, seeing friends and talking to family do better long-term.

Some people with anxiety seem to get stuck in a pattern of withdrawing, where they refuse to go out, saying no to help and support, drop out of college or learning and even refuse to leave their room. Young people are more at risk, and some cultures may be more at risk than others.

Crucial: Overstretching yourself can also be a problem. The aim is balance. There is more help to cope with stress from the Mix

The five ways to wellbeing

The five ways to wellbeing are a set of actions which will boost your wellbeing. They are based on lots of research. Doing these actions regularly will support you to become happier and more resilient to stress.

  • Connect - with friends, family and the people around you. Talk, listen and care.
  • Be Active - get out and do some exercise, in the fresh air if possible.
  • Take notice - be curious and notice the world around you. Take joy in what you see.
  • Learn - Find out more, set yourself challenges and never stop learning.
  • Give - Volunteer, or just do something nice for someone else.

Take action: Active Body, Healthy Mind can get you involved with sport and physical activity, and you can find lots of other opportunities, including volunteering on this website.

Regular Physical Activity

Masses of evidence links physical activity with better wellbeing. Getting active can reduce your risk of suffering a mental health problem; and it can also help you recover from problems like stress, anxiety and depression. This is because getting active:

  • Improves your mood and reduces stress
  • Helps you sleep better
  • Boosts self esteem as you learn new skills and get fitter
  • Sets you challenges and goals
  • Gets you out and about and helps you meet people

Exercise does not have to be sport. Something as simple as going for a walking or doing yoga can help boost your mood.

Take action: Being Active can change your life. Mind's website Get Set to GO is full of tips and strategies to get everybody active, no matter what barriers there are!

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a mind-body approach to managing thoughts and feelings. It is a recognised way of supporting people to manage stress, anxiety and depressive symptoms. It encourages people to be aware of the present moment, thoughts, feelings and body sensations to enable us to manage them rather than feel overwhelmed by them. You may have already done mindfulness training through your school, it is widely available.

Support from others

  • Speak to your school health nurse who will listen and support you
  • Speak to your GP
  • Talk to a trusted adult such as a sports coach, teacher, or your parents.
  • If you care 16-17 you can self-refer to Community CAMHS, who can help you with difficulties such as anxiety, depression, self-harm and more.

 

 

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