Stress Awareness Month: How can we get through moments of high stress?

In the third of a four-part blog series covering all aspects of stress, we share some tips on coping when you're feeling overwhelmed or burnt out from a stressful situation.

We know that stress is a normal part of the human experience, and that the body has specific processes in place to help us to ‘survive’ them. But what can we do to ensure we are coping with stress before it becomes unmanageable?

Although there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question as everyone copes with stress differently, there are some things you can do if you’re finding stress overwhelming.

Recognizing when you’re stressed

When you’re having a stressful time, sometimes it can be hard to see that it’s even happening at all. Stress manifests itself physically as well as mentally, so looking out for the signs of stress is a good place to start in beginning to cope with the situation. Mental health charity Mind have listed some common physical symptoms of stress, which includes:

  • Fatigue
  • Shallow breathing
  • Restlessness
  • Sweating

From here, if you know you’re feeling overly stressed, you can take the appropriate steps to remove yourself from the stressful situation if possible or begin to calm yourself down. Here are a few ways you could do that.

Mindfulness and breathing practices

Both meditation and breathing exercises are a quick way to reduce stress that can be done anywhere. A study by Khoury et al (2015) found that mindfulness practices were “effective in reducing stress, depression, anxiety and distress”, with stress showing the most marked improvement.

Breathing exercises are also beneficial in encouraging a full oxygen exchange in the lungs, slow the heart rate and invoke a relaxation response. There are self-guided resources on stress relieving breath exercises.


Since stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol were designed to help you face physical threats (like being chased by a lion) then exercise can help us to metabolize those chemicals faster. 

If you can, why not take a walk at a local park or green space? It has been proven that being out in nature can help to reduce stress levels both mentally and physically; it is effective in reducing blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones. In a study carried out by Mitchell (2013), physical activity in a natural environment might produce greater mental health benefits than physical activity elsewhere.

If you feel like you’re becoming overwhelmed with stress, there are things you can do in the moment to regain a sense of control. Making sure that we prioritize our wellbeing in times of high stress will ensure that we don’t have to deal with the negative effects of chronic stress long term.

In our final article on stress, we’ll be discussing longer-term ways of coping and building resilience.