How does stress affect our mental health?

Mental health problems can stem from a range of different factors from physical causes such as if you have had an injury, a change in your personal circumstances or it can even be hereditary. There is a long list of factors that cause mental health problems and stress is just one of them.

Understanding what causes you stress can help you to find solutions and make steps towards improving your mental health. If you can recognise the early signs that you are feeling stressed, you may be able to take action that reduces the effects of stress. A study by YouGov showed that 74% of the people surveyed had felt stressed at some point in the past year. So it is a problem that affects a huge proportion of the population.

What is stress? defines stress as “the degree to which you feel overwhelmed or unable to cope as a result of pressures that are unmanageable”. Sometimes stress can be beneficial to a person, for example, the pressure of doing something daunting motivates them to carry on or perform well. However, there are also very negative effects of stress that can impact your physical and mental health.

Research shows that a big contributor to stress amongst young people was comparing themselves to others and over a third of women feeling high levels of stress attributed it to their worries about the appearance of their body.

How stress affects mental health

Mental health is closely linked with stress with anxiety, depression, PTSD and psychosis. The body can generally cope with smaller bouts of stress but chronic stress can result in mental illness. Research shows that chronic stress increases the chance of developing anxiety and depression in some people.

People behave in different ways when they feel stressed; some people will try to cope with stress by drinking or smoking more, which can have even more negative health consequences. Alcohol is a depressant so those who start drinking more get caught in a vicious cycle where they drink to cope but feel worse for drinking. Smoking also is very detrimental to health, so increased smoking due to feelings of stress can increase the chances of developing cancer.

If you have a mental illness, then stress can make your symptoms worse, so finding ways of coping with stress will help your mental health.

Ways to deal with stress:

Lifestyle changes – Changing your diet, reducing alcohol intake and even reducing caffeine can have a positive impact on your stress levels.

Exercise – Exercise is a great way to relieve stress, so choosing an activity that you enjoy and doing it regularly is a good idea. When you exercise your body releases endorphins, which gives you a positive boost.

Improved sleep routine – Getting the right amount of sleep also helps to reduce stress, so try to get into a better sleeping routine.


If you are suffering from stress, there are plenty of ways to get support such as through your GP or mental health service. Getting support and talking about how you are feeling will help you to find better ways of dealing and give you a happier, healthier life.


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