Understanding stress

Manage your own stress and support family and friends

How stress affects us

Stress affects people in various ways, for different reasons. Understanding your and others' stress helps you to manage it and support friends and family.

Try the activities from the video to learn how stress may affect your body, and what you can do to reduce it.

What is 'stress' for you?

Think about what the word 'stress' means to you personally, and what causes it for you. Here are some ideas:

  1. Change, pressure and challenges can cause us to feel stressed
  2. A circumstance may be stressful, for example a fear of heights.
  3. A situation could become stressful because of other factors.

As an example of the last idea, going to school or work might not be stressful every day, but if you had a row with a friend or have a deadline, you may feel more stressed.

Effects of stress

You might show stress with your body, like sweating or nervous foot tapping. Or you may just feel it inside. Understanding how stress affects you helps you recognise and manage it. Feeling stress for a long time can damage your body and mind. Learn more: Mind website, YoungMinds website and NHS website.

Feeling better

What makes you feel less stressed? Think about all the things that make you feel better, like a breathing exercise or going for a walk. Can you do these things when you feel stressed? How would this help you?

Some things might make you feel less stressed temporarily but can have serious negative impacts later, like overeating or self-harm. Your safety is the most important thing. Ask yourself: will this harm my body, mind or emotions in another way? What are the possible risks? How can I avoid them?

Stress patterns

  • Imagine you are investigating your stress from the outside.
  • 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 stress change your body, feelings and thoughts in the same way each time? Do the same things help you to feel better?


Knowing when you are feeling stressed

What are your signs of stress? Is there a feeling you can watch out for, so you know you are stressed? Consider telling your friends and family what to watch out for too. How can you reduce the feeling? If there is an activity that generally makes you more calm, try doing this whenever you feel stressed.

Being prepared

You might not be able to avoid doing something you find stressful but you can tell people and keep your calming activity in mind. Do you think understanding your stress pattern will help you prepare for and manage stress better? What will you do in future to help yourself?

Helping others

Encourage other people in your life who might be feeling stressed  to do the video activity and work through this page. Discuss what you both learned about your stress patterns from this activity. Focus on what you can do to help each other.

Remember, you're not expected to fix anyone. Recognising the limits of help you can give is important. If you need to, signpost your friends to further help. This is also a way of helping them.

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