Stress is a feeling we get when we are under pressure.
Everyone – young and old –feels stressed at times in our lives. Sometimes stress can be helpful, as it can motivate us to get things done, do our best, or make changes where changes are needed. However, long-term stress – or too much stress – is not good. When stress gets out of control, it can affect our mental and physical health and our relationships with people around us. Research carried out by the Mental Health Foundation found that 60% of young people, aged 18-24, have felt so stressed by the pressure to succeed, they have felt overwhelmed or unable to cope.
Stress can have an effect on our physical and mental health and on our behaviour. Information available on the Young Scot website lists some of the common effects of stress:
Some people also find they smoke or drink more or take drugs when stressed. Trying to cope with stress in these ways usually just makes things worse.
Some people deliberately hurt themselves when they are stressed. This is called self-harm. Self-harm can be thought of as a way of expressing emotional pain by turning it into physical pain. People who self-harm say that self-harm helps them cope and gives them a ‘release’ from intense and distressing feelings. Some say it is a way of crying out for help – even though they may go to great lengths to hide their self-harm.
Lots of things can cause stress, and what’s stressful to one person may not feel stressful to someone else. According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, young people often feel stressed because of:
Sometimes even good things can feel a bit stressful – like graduating from school, starting a new job, or meeting new people.
When you have caring commitments, life can feel very stressful a lot of the time, and that stress can soon build up and start to feel overwhelming. When people go through long periods of stress, they may experience ‘burnout’ – a feeling of complete physical and emotional exhaustion. This can happen to young people too.
If you feel you can’t cope any more, if you feel exhausted, hopeless, or suicidal, it’s very important to talk to someone right away. If you feel you can’t talk to your parents or carers, speak to a trusted friend, teacher or other relative, and try to explain to them how you’re feeling. Getting their perspective on things could help, and you’ll start to feel better just for getting your feelings out in the open.
If you find it difficult to open and up and talk to someone, try using the What’s on Your Mind card to think about and write down how you feel first. Once you’ve got the words you need, you could then talk to someone about it, or show them what you’ve written down. If you feel you can’t talk to anyone you know about how you feel, phone Childline or the Samaritans instead.
If you’re a young carer and are struggling to keep up with work at school, talking to a teacher about your situation can really help. Problems can arise at school when the teachers don’t know about your caring responsibilities, and then punish you for arriving late to school or not having finished an assignment. On the other hand, if they know about your situation, they can help make things easier for you at school.
Problems often feel too big to handle on your own but having another person on your side can help you to share the burden. You might be able to even work out a way to tackle your stressful situation together.