We all know what it's like to feel stressed, but it's not easy to pin down exactly what stress means.

It can relate to situations that put pressure on us, or times where we have lots to do and think about, or don't have much control over what happens.

Or it can mean feeling that we've been placed under pressure – the feelings we get when we have demands placed on us that we find difficult to cope with.

Or sometimes we can feel stressed even if we don't have any obvious pressure - we can still experience that feeling of finding it difficult to cope.

Experiencing a lot of stress over a long period of time can also lead to a feeling of physical, mental and emotional exhaustion, often called burnout. There's no medical definition of stress, and there's disagreement about whether stress is the cause of problems, or the result of them.  

However, whatever your personal definition of stress is, it's likely that you can learn to manage your stress better by:

  • managing external pressures, so stressful situations don't seem to happen to you quite so often.
  • developing your emotional resilience, so you're better at coping with challenging situations when they do happen - and don't feel quite so stressed.

Managing external pressures: Stress can come from a lot of areas of our life: work, relationships, patenting, finances, exams - you name it!

Stress can be overwhelming, so some people find it helpful to take some time to identify exactly what it is, that's causing the stress. 

Once you've identified the issue, you might find it helpful to organise your self - making lists of things you have to do, setting small targets.

Don't do too much and try to vary what you're doing, building-in breaks.

Although there may be things in your life that you can't do anything about, there might still be some practical ways you could resolve or improve some of the issues that are putting pressure on you. Use the internet to find options, solutions or help for the issues that are causing you pressure, or talk to someone you trust.

Finally - it's not easy, but accepting that there are some things happening to you, that you probably can't do anything about, will help you focus your time and energy more productively. Some people find that developing some 'go-to' stress-relieving techniques can help to reduce stress in those moments. These might include breathing or meditation techniques, but it might also be reading or going for a walk. 

Developing emotional resilience:  Taking steps to look after our wellbeing can help us deal with pressure and reduce the impact that stress has on our lives. This is sometimes called developing emotional resilience.

Resilience is not just the ability to bounce back, but also the capacity to adapt in the face of challenging circumstances, whilst maintaining a stable mental wellbeing. Resilience isn't a personality trait – it's something that we can all take steps to achieve.

The Mind website has lots of ideas for developing emotional resilience, improving wellbeing and increasing self-esteem. 

The NHS website Every Mind Matters has some top tips for dealing with stress.