How to Relieve Stress: Keeping You Mentally Healthy

What is Stress

Stress is a psychological and physiological response that occurs when an individual senses that he or she is unable to cope with a particular demand or challenge. It is the body's natural response to external pressures (e.g., workload, relationships, financial problems, etc.). The stress response can be short-term (acute stress) or long-term (chronic stress), and its effects are multidimensional.

Stress is a Double-Edged Sword

Stress is a universal phenomenon that almost everyone encounters in their lives. It stems from an individual's perception of and reaction to challenges or threats in the external environment. While a certain level of stress can act as a motivator to help people cope with daily challenges, increase efficiency and complete important tasks, excessive stress can have long-term negative health consequences.

Consequences of Excessive Stress

  • Physiological Effects

1) CARDIOVASCULAR SYSTEM: Chronic stress increases the risk of heart disease because stress causes a faster heart rate and higher blood pressure, which may damage the cardiovascular system in the long run.

2) IMMUNE SYSTEM: Stress suppresses the immune system, making individuals more susceptible to disease and possibly slowing down the recovery process.

3) MUSCLE TENSION: In a state of stress, the body's muscles are put under tension in preparation for fight-or-flight, and prolonged muscle tension can lead to pain and physical discomfort.

  • Psychological Effects

1) EMOTIONAL RESPONSE: Stress may lead to emotional instability, manifested as anxiety, irritability, depression or pessimism.

2) COGNITIVE ABILITIES: chronic stress affects brain function and may lead to distraction, memory loss, and diminished decision-making ability.

  • Behavioural Effects

3) SLEEP PROBLEMS: stress often leads to reduced sleep quality, such as difficulty falling asleep or interrupted sleep, which in turn can increase feelings of stress.

4) EATING HABITS: Some people may cope with stress by overeating, and this type of "emotional eating" can lead to weight gain and other health problems, while others may lose their appetite.

5) SOCIAL ACTIVITIES: Stress may also cause people to avoid social activities, leading to increased isolation and loneliness.

Common Sources of Stress

  • Workplace Stress

1) WORKLOAD: Excessive workload or multitasking requirements may lead to increased feelings of stress.

2) DEADLINES: tight deadlines or continuous project submissions may cause individuals to feel constant pressure.

3) WORKPLACE RELATIONSHIPS: Tensions with co-workers, superiors or subordinates, including conflicts or communication problems in the work environment, can be significant sources of stress.

  • Family Stress

1) FAMILY RESPONSIBILITIES: such as caring for young or elderly family members, handling family finances, or managing daily family affairs.

2) INTERPERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS: Tensions between family members, such as spousal relationships, parent-child relationships, etc., can lead to significant stress.

  • Social Stress

1) SOCIAL EXPECTATIONS: Expectations from society about an individual's behaviour and achievements, which may not be in line with the individual's abilities or aspirations.

2) ECONOMIC STRESS: uncertainty about the economic situation, such as unemployment, debt, or rising cost of living, can be a significant factor in causing stress.

  • Personal stress

1) SELF-EXPECTATIONS: individuals may have expectations of themselves that are too high and difficult to fulfil, leading to ongoing stress and frustration.

2) HEALTH PROBLEMS: health problems of the individual or family members, especially chronic or serious illnesses, can significantly increase an individual's stress level.

Recognising the Signs of Stress

  • Physical Symptoms

1) FATIGUE: Chronic stress can drain physical strength and energy, leading to a constant feeling of exhaustion.

2) HEADACHES: Stress is a common trigger for headaches and migraines.

3) MUSCLE TENSION: In a state of stress, the muscles of the body unconsciously tighten, especially in the neck, shoulders and back, which can lead to chronic muscle pain.

  • Psychological Symptoms

1) ANXIETY: Under the influence of stress, individuals may feel uneasy and apprehensive, and fearful of the future.

2) DEPRESSION: Chronic stress may lead to low mood and persistent feelings of sadness or helplessness.

3) MOOD SWINGS: stress can also lead to emotional instability and emotional reactions may become more intense and frequent.

  • Behavioural Changes

1) SLEEP PROBLEMS: stress often affects the quality and pattern of sleep, which may manifest as insomnia, excessive dreaming, or excessive sleep.

2) CHANGES IN EATING HABITS: Stress can lead to changes in eating habits, with some people experiencing a loss of appetite while others may overeat, particularly an increased intake of high-calorie or "comfort" foods.

Effective Stress Relief Techniques

  • Physical Activity

1) WALKING: A simple walking activity can significantly reduce stress; it not only helps in clear thinking but also improves mood.

2) YOGA: Yoga combines the practice of asana, breathing and meditation, which can effectively reduce both physical and mental stress.

3) AEROBIC EXERCISE: Aerobic exercise such as running, swimming or cycling releases endorphins (a natural "feel-good" chemical), which elevate mood and reduce stress.

  • Positive Thinking Meditation

Through meditation, you can learn how to notice and accept current feelings and thoughts without judgement. This practice helps reduce anxiety and stress and improves emotional regulation.

  • Time Management

Optimise your daily schedule to ensure that you allocate work and rest time wisely and avoid overworking.

Learn to set priorities and categorise tasks (urgent vs. non-urgent, important vs. unimportant) to help reduce stress and improve efficiency.

  • Social Support

Maintaining good communication with friends and family and sharing your feelings and stress can be emotionally supportive.

Participate in community activities or interest groups to connect with others and feel the collective strength and support.

  • Professional help

Seeking professional mental health services is necessary if stress persists and interferes with daily life and health. Mental health professionals, such as counsellors or psychiatrists, can provide professional assessment and treatment to help individuals identify stressors and learn effective coping strategies.

Help can be sought through referrals from family doctors or by contacting professional organisations on your own. Many workplaces also offer Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP) to provide mental health support to employees.

Improving Lifestyle Habits

  • Dietary Advice

1) EAT A BALANCED DIET: Make sure your diet contains enough vegetables, fruits, whole grains, proteins and healthy fats. A balanced nutritional intake helps stabilise blood sugar levels and reduce mood swings.

2) AVOID TOO MUCH CAFFEINE AND SUGAR: Too much caffeine and sugar can cause dramatic swings in energy and mood and increase feelings of stress.

3) STAY WELL HYDRATED: Maintaining a proper state of hydration is important for maintaining energy and clear thinking.

  • Importance of Sleep

1) ENSURE ADEQUATE HOURS OF SLEEP: Make sure you get seven to nine hours of quality sleep each night. A good night's sleep helps the body and brain recover and improves the ability to cope with stress.

2) ESTABLISH A REGULAR SLEEP ROUTINE: Try to go to bed and get up at the same time every day.

3) CREATE A GOOD SLEEP ENVIRONMENT: Make sure your bedroom is quiet, dark and cool, and use comfortable bedding.

  • Relaxation Techniques

1) DEEP BREATHING: Practising deep breathing can help reduce tension and anxiety. Try, for example, abdominal breathing or the 4-7-8 breathing technique (inhale for 4 seconds, hold the breath for 7 seconds and exhale for 8 seconds) to relax the body and mind.

2) HOT BATHS: Soaking in a hot bath can help the body relax and reduce muscle tension. Adding some soothing essential oils (such as lavender or Roman chamomile) is even more helpful for relaxation.

3) READ: Regular reading can provide mental escape and relaxation. Choosing light reading material can provide mental relief during times of stress.


In this article, we have explored the definition, sources and effects of stress as well as effective management techniques. Stress, as an unavoidable part of modern life, has a profound impact on our physical and mental health. Understanding how to manage stress effectively is therefore an important skill that everyone should have.

Everyone experiences stress in a different way, so identifying your unique stressors is crucial. Understanding what triggers your stress response and observing how these stresses affect your behaviour and health can help you cope more effectively. Once these stress points are identified, specific techniques such as time management, deep breathing, and positive thinking meditation can be used to reduce stress.

Managing stress is a process that involves self-awareness, skill application and constant adaptation. By actively managing stress, we can not only improve our own quality of life, but also create a more harmonious environment for those around us.