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Digital Healthy Schools Newsletter – Tips to deal with stress

Lucia Victor

More than half of young people report often or always feeling anxious – that’s the highest level ever recorded. It’s not surprising that more and more of us are facing burnout. 

But what is burnout? Stress is common and (sadly) unavoidable. It’s a natural function of the brain that alerts us to the fact that something is wrong. After all, our brains aren’t designed to make us happy – they’re designed to keep us safe. And a small amount of stress or pressure can help motivate us. So, when does stress become burnout?

When you’re stressed, your body produces chemicals to help you take urgent action, like adrenaline and cortisol. These chemicals have side-effects, like difficulty concentrating or sleeping, weight gain or loss, dizziness or feeling physically unwell, and even anxiety and depression. These side-effects can then, unhelpfully, cause more stress. Burnout is defined as “a state of emotional, physical and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress”. It can be hard to tell when you’re becoming burned out, but by learning to spot the symptoms, you can help prevent it before it’s too late.

Some recognisable symptoms of burnout can be:

  • Procrastination – putting off the things you used to enjoy (or at least have motivation to do).
  • Apathy – no longer caring about things you used to enjoy, or care about.
  • Avoiding situations you once would have enjoyed being in.
  • Extreme anxiety or fear regarding things that would once have been no problem.
  • Negativity – no longer being able to see things from your usual optimistic perspective.
  • Trouble concentrating.
  • Irritability – becoming annoyed, upset or frustrated by things that once would have seemed like a fun challenge – or no challenge at all.

Learning to deal with stress can be difficult – but try a few of the tips below and stick with what works for you. You don’t have to do everything, but try to at least make one de-stressing activity part of your regular routine.

  • Look for what triggers your stress – what was happening the last few times you felt stressed? How did you feel? What did you do?
  • Be aware of your stress – your body will often start expressing the physical symptoms of stress before your brain processes that you are feeling stressed. Keep an eye out for increased heart rate, sweating or other physical sensations.
  • Do a self-care activity – this is anything that helps you and makes you feel better in the long-term. This might be cooking or baking, going for a walk or having a chat with a trusted loved one. Unfortunately, anything that mostly includes looking at a screen doesn’t count – screens stimulate our brains and prevent them from processing information. 
  • Exercise, meditation and relaxation exercises like deep breathing or deep muscle relaxation help lots of people to calm their bodies down quickly, which in turn helps their mind to do the same. Many of the health apps in your Digital Healthy Schools Library can help with these – try searching “relaxation techniques” or “exercise”.
  • Look after your body with enough sleep, nutrition and water. The better rested and fed you are, the more able you are to cope with stressors. Avoid stimulants like caffeine or nicotine, and depressants like alcohol. These give your body too much else to do to focus on helping you heal.
  • Talking therapy can be really helpful – trained professionals can give good, helpful and practical advice tailored to the issues you’re currently experiencing. Contact your GP to find out which services are available in your area.
  • CBT exercises can help you spot unhelpful thought or behaviour patterns and replace them with better ones. Your GP will know which CBT services are available. Alternatively, there are many health apps which include CBT exercise in your Digital Healthy Schools Library – try searching “CBT”.

These are just a few options. Perhaps the most important thing is just to listen to your body, and be kind to yourself. Regularly do something that genuinely makes you feel good – not distracted, or productive, but happy.

There are many health apps from your Digital Healthy Schools site designed to help you cope with stress. Search “Stress” or try one of our three top-rated stress apps:

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