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Looking after your mental health

It’s okay not to be okay: Your guide to health and happiness. Learn to meditate and live mindfully.

What is stress?

Stress is how our bodies respond to threat when we sense danger, whether real or imagined. We can all feel stressed when we are under too much mental or emotional pressure. We all have different stress levels which are based on individual experiences, personality and how we choose or have learned to respond to situations. But stress can also be unhealthy and cause anxiety or depression, particularly if we are exposed to long periods of pressure and major life events that trigger our stress response. Examples of external stress triggers include:

  • the death of someone we love
  • divorce
  • losing a job
  • financial obligations and pressures
  • moving home
  • serious illness or injury
  • traumatic life events

Good stress vs bad stress

There are two types of stress: There’s stress that motivates you to do better and that brings certain characteristics to the fore that is of benefit to you. This is good stress. However, you can also experience stress that causes anxiety and associated health problems. How can you distinguish between the two stresses?

Good stress – Take about 20 seconds and think about a moment in your life where stress has been helpful. For example, the first time you had to deliver a presentation at work, and how you felt stressed. Ultimately, that stress might have helped you to prepare, practice and perform better for that presentation.

Bad stress – Stress is problematic when it becomes disproportionate to your problems or fears when you are feeling overwhelmed and overthinking everything. When we find ourselves in this situation too much, it might be a signal that we are stepping into a mental health challenge and into the territory of anxiety and depression.