Understanding stress

Stress affects everyone differently for different reasons. It is important to understand our own and each other’s stress to be able to manage it and support our friends and family. Watch the video and follow the activities described to explore how stress might affect your body and what you can do to help tackle it. 

What does stress mean to you?

Think about what the word ‘stress’ means to you? 

‘Stress’ can mean lots of things to different people and affects everyone differently. Things like change, pressure and challenges can cause us to feel ‘stressed’. A situation may be stressful for us, but a situation could also be made stressful because of other factors. For example, going to school or work might not be stressful every day, but if you had a row with a friend or have a deadline that day, it will feel much more stressful than normal. Some people might show stress in their body, some might just feel it inside. Feeling stress for a long time can damage your body and mind. Understanding how stress affects you can help you to manage your stress better. If you want more information about what stress is and how to manage it visit the Mind charity website

Feeling better

Lots of different things can help us to feel better when we feel stressed. Think about what might make you feel better. Think about the things that make you feel less stressed.

Can you do these things when you feel stressed? How would this help you feel better?  

Remember that some things might make you feel less stressed temporarily but can have serious negative impacts later, like over-eating or self-harm. Your safety is vital. Ask yourself: Will this harm my body, mind or emotions in another way? What are the possible risks of each activity and how can I avoid them? 

Stress patterns

Imagine you are looking at your stress as an outside investigator, try to imagine it is someone else’s body and feelings. You are looking at it so you can understand it better. Watch the video and do the stress patterns activity in the video. After drawing your own stress pattern look at it carefully.  

What pattern do you notice - Is it always the same things that make you stressed, does it change your body, feelings and thoughts in the same way each time? Do the same things help you to feel better?  

What are your signs of stress - What feeling can you watch out for so you know you are stressed? Can you tell your friends and family about this so that they know?  

How can you manage your stress – one activity that makes you feel calmer. Can you do this whenever you feel stressed?  

How can you prepare yourself – we can’t always avoid doing things that make us stressed, but can you tell people and get ready to do your calming activity when you have to do something you know makes you feels stressed? Does understanding your stress pattern help you to prepare for and manage stress better? What will you do in future to help yourself? 

Helping others

Now think about how you can help your friends and family with their stress. If they do the video activity too, look at their ‘stress pattern’ and learn about their stress.  

  • What can you do to help notice and understand their stress?  
  • What action might mean they are stressed?  
  • What thing might cause them to feel stressed?  
  • What thing might help them to feel better?  

Remember that everyone shows and feels stress differently for different reasons. Understanding others is a really big part of helping them and knowing how to help. Discuss your stress patterns with a close friend or family member. Write down the key information someone would need to know about you to identify and help manage your stress. Read someone else’s and think about how you can help them. Remember to look out for their signs of stress and help others too. 

This resource was made with support from the British Red Cross pyschosocial team.