Everyone feels stress sometimes, especially when dealing with a difficult situation. Difficult situations can include relationship difficulties, work issues or money worries.

Feeling stress can sometimes motivate you to get things done or find solutions to your problems. But a lot of stress over a long period of time can cause you physical, mental and emotional exhaustion. This is known as burnout.

Signs of stress

Stress affects everyone in different ways. But it’s not always easy to know that stress is the cause.

Stress can affect how you think, feel and behave, including:

  • feeling overwhelmed (feeling that everything is too much)

  • finding it hard to concentrate

  • being irritable

  • feelings of anxiety or feeling worried or scared all the time

  • being forgetful

  • lacking self-confidence

  • sleep problems or feeling tired all the time

  • avoiding certain places or people

  • eating less or more than usual

  • drinking alcohol or smoking more than usual

Physical signs of stress can include:

  • increased heart rate

  • increased breathing rate

  • high blood pressure

  • high metabolism

Causes of stress

Stress is usually a reaction to mental, physical or emotional pressure. The causes of stress can vary from person-to-person.

Stress can be triggered by, or be part of, anxiety or low mood.

Possible causes of stress are:

  • relationships difficulties

  • big or unexpected life changes, like moving house or starting to care for someone

  • problems at work

  • looking for a job

  • money difficulties

  • health issues, either for you or someone close to you

  • pregnancy and children

  • problems with housing

  • feeling lonely and unsupported

Tips to managing stress:

Plan Head

If you have a stressful day or week coming up, plan ahead. This can make you feel prepared and better able to cope.

To be prepared:

  • make a to-do list with important and urgent tasks

  • gather any things you will need

  • if you need to travel, work out the journey

  • make time for the things you enjoy at the end of the day or during the week

  • think about who you can ask for help, if you need it

Break down a task

If a task seems overwhelming and difficult to start, try breaking it down into smaller parts. Complete each part and then move on to the next part.

Setting realistic goals can help you manage stress.

Give yourself credit when you complete a task.

Focus on things you can control

Feeling you have lost control is one of the main causes of stress. But it's not always possible to change or control a difficult situation.

Focus on things you can control, rather than things you cannot control. This is an important part of finding a solution. For example, you might lose your job. This could be out of your control.

Instead, focus on something you can control. For example, looking for a new job or a course to help you get new skills that will help you find another job.

Focus on the positives

Take time to think about the good things in your life.

Each day, think about what went well and write down 3 things you're grateful for.

Talk about how you feel

If you feel stressed, it can help to talk to a friend or family member about how you feel.

Telling someone about how you are feeling can help to make things clearer for you. It can help you understand why you are feeling stressed and to get help with how to manage it.


Breathing exercises can help your mind and body get control of a difficult situation. They only take a few minutes to do and can help you manage strong emotions and reduce stress.


Mindfulness teaches you to become aware of the present moment. This helps you enjoy things more.

You can learn to not react or become overwhelmed by what’s going on around you by doing mindfulness. Instead, you notice your thoughts, feelings and sensations.

Mindfulness can be an easy activity you can fit into your day.


Stress can make you feel more tired than usual. It can also make it more difficult to get or stay asleep.

Sleep is important for mental health. It helps you to think clearly and gives you the energy to deal with problems.

Most people need 5 to 9 hours sleep a night. More than 7 hours is recommended for adults. The ideal amount is 8 hours, but everyone's different.

Healthy eating

What you eat can make a difference to your mental health. A diet rich in foods such as fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds can boost your energy and mental health.

Healthier food choices can improve your mental and physical health.

Get active

Physical activity will help you sleep, relax and feel better. It helps reduce stress, burn off anxious energy and feel calm. It can also be a good way to meet people and get more involved in your community.

Any activity is useful, as long as it is suited to your ability and you do enough of it. Find something that you enjoy doing. This will help keep you motivated to do it every day.

Smoking and Alcohol

If you feel stressed, you may drink more alcohol or smoke more than you usually do.

It might be tempting to use smoking and alcohol to manage stress. But try not to do this as a way of coping.

Useful Links 

Free online Stress Control classes from the HSE 

HSE Health and Wellbeing are offering a free Stress Control programme. Stress Control is an evidence-based programme that teaches you practical skills to deal with stress.

The programme helps participants recognise the signs of stress. It covers topics including how stress affects our bodies and our thoughts. It teaches skills to overcome panicky feelings and tips to getting a good night’s sleep.

The sessions are presented by Dr Jim White, an internationally recognised expert in stress management who has teamed up with the HSE. He works with the EU to develop mental health services across Europe using interventions, including Stress Control.

This is a free programme and to participate simply visit to view, see below for the times each session is available for viewing.

The six sessions are 90 minutes a session and will cover different topics. Participants are encouraged to watch all sessions, but participants can join at any stage for one or more session.