This information guide is intended for people with mild-to-moderate symptoms.  If you, or someone you know, needs support with mental health problems, in the first instance you should contact your GP. If required, your GP can then refer you to Mental Health Services in your local areas. If you need help for a mental health crisis or emergency, you should get immediate expert advice and assessment. It is important to know that support is available.


If you, or someone you know, needs urgent help or is in crisis, call NHS 24 on 111. If you just need to talk with someone, there is help available. The Samaritans are there 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. You can call them on 116 123 (freephone) or email: jo@samaritans.org. Breathing Space offers a confidential phone line for anyone in Scotland feeling low, anxious or depressed. You can call free on 0800 83 85 87.

What is Stress?

Stress is the body's reaction to feeling threatened or under pressure. It's very common, can be motivating to help us achieve things in our daily life, and can help us meet the demands of home, work and family life.A confused person

But too much stress can affect our mood, our body and our relationships – especially when it feels out of our control. It can make us feel anxious and irritable, and affect our self-esteem.
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.

Take a look at these questions:

  • Do you find it difficult to relax and unwind?
  • Do you find it a struggle to cope with the demands of daily life?
  • Do you constantly feel exhausted and teary?
  • Do you feel you are losing control of your life?
  • Do you feel overwhelmed and unable to cope?
  • Do you take on a lot but achieve little?
  • Do you find it hard to stop worrying?
  • Do you feel like there is too much being demanded of you?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then stress could be affecting you. Use this guide to find out what you can do to start to manage your stress better. 

Symptoms of Stress

Stress can affect our emotions, our body and how we behave, in lots of different ways. Sometimes when we are stressed, we might be able to tell right away. But at other times, we might keep going without recognising the signs.

Mental Symptoms and Stress

The way you think about a situation can cause stress. Remember that stress is a response to danger and you may experience what is referred to as negative automatic thoughts. For example "I am a failure" or "I will never be able to cope". Negative automatic thoughts can lead to self-doubt, depression, anxiety, anger, irritability and low mood. Some symptoms may include: 

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Struggling to make decisions
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Constantly worrying
  • Being forgetful
  • Existing mental health difficulties getting worse

Emotional Symptoms and Stress

Stress can cause issues ranging from low mood and anxiety to anger. Some symptoms may include:

  • Irritability, anger, impatience or feeling wound up
  • Over-burdened or overwhelmed
  • Anxious, nervous or afraid
  • Depressed
  • Uninterested in life with a sense of hopelessness 
  • A sense of helplessness
  • Neglected or lonely

Some people who go through severe stress may experience suicidal feelings. This can be very distressing. Look at our 'suicide and self-harm' page to learn more. 

Physical Signs of Stress

The hormones that our bodies produce to respond to stressful situations can have many physical effects. These physical effects might include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Panic attacks
  • Blurred eyesight or sore eyes
  • Sleep problems
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle aches and headaches
  • Chest pains and high blood pressure
  • Indigestion or heartburn
  • Constipation or diarrhoea
  • Feeling sick, dizzy or fainting
  • Sudden weight gain or weight loss
  • Developing rashes or itchy skin
  • Sweating
  • Changes to your period or menstrual cycle
  • Existing physical health problems getting worse

Stress and Behaviours

If you feel stressed, it might make you:

  • Find it hard to make decisions
  • Constantly worry or have feelings of dread
  • Snap at people
  • Bite your nails
  • Pick at or itch your skin
  • Grind your teeth or clench your jaw
  • Experience sexual problems, such as losing interest in sex or being unable to enjoy sex
  • Eat too much or too little
  • Smoke, use recreational drugs or drink alcohol more than you usually would
  • Restless, like you can't sit still
  • Cry or feel tearful
  • Spend or shop too much
  • Not exercise as much as you usually would, or exercise too much
  • Withdraw from people around you

Causes of Stress

Many things can cause stress. You might feel stressed because of one big event or situation in your life. Or it might be a build-up of lots of smaller things.

This might make it harder for you to identify what's making you feel stressed, or to explain it to other people.

You may experience stress if you:

  • Feel under lots of pressure
  • Face big changes in your life
  • Are worried about something
  • Don't have much or any control over the outcome of a situation
  • Have responsibilities that you find overwhelming
  • Don't have enough work, activities or change in your life
  • Experience discrimination, hate or abuse
  • Are going through a period of uncertainty

Feeling Stressed in Certain Situations?

How stressed you feel in different situations may depend on factors like:

  • How comfortable you feel in certain types of situation
  • What else you are going through at the time
  • Your past experiences, and how these affect the way you feel about yourself
  • The resources you have available to you, such as time and money
  • The amount of support you have from other people

Some situations that don't bother you at all might cause someone else a lot of stress. This is because we are all influenced by different experiences. We also have different levels of support and ways of coping.

Certain events might also make you feel stressed sometimes, but not every time. For example, if you go shopping for food with enough time and money, you may not feel stressed. But you might feel stressed if you have lots of other things to do, have a tight budget, or need to buy food for a big event. Many things can cause stress in different areas of our lives. These may include:


  • Illness or injury
  • Pregnancy and becoming a parent
  • Infertility and problems having children
  • Bereavement 
  • Experiencing abuse
  • Experiencing crime and the justice system, such as being arrested, going to court or being a witness
  • Organising a complicated event, like a holiday
  • Everyday tasks, such as household chores or taking transport

Friends and Family

  • Getting married or civil partnered
  • Going through a break-up or getting divorced
  • Difficult relationships with parents, siblings, friends or children
  • Being a carer

Employment and Study

  • Losing your job
  • Long-term unemployment
  • Retiring
  • Exams and deadlines
  • Difficult situations or colleagues at work
  • Starting a new job


  • Housing problems, such as poor living conditions, lack of security or homelessness
  • Moving house
  • Problems with neighbours


  • Worries about money or benefits
  • Living in poverty
  • Managing debt

Social factors

  • Having poor access to services such as medical care, green spaces or transport
  • Living through a stressful community-wide, national or global event, like the coronavirus pandemic
  • Experiencing stigma or discrimination, including racism, homophobia, biphobia or transphobia

Can Happy Events cause Stress?

Some of these situations are often thought of as happy events. For example, you might feel expected to be happy or excited about getting married or having a baby. But these events can bring big changes, and you might experience new or unusual demands. So, they can still feel very stressful. This can be difficult to deal with, especially if you also feel pressure to be positive.

Self-Care for Stress

Taking care of yourself is an important step for managing stress. We are all less able to handle the stresses that come our way when we're depleted by physical and emotional exhaustion. Or, put in a more positive way, we are more resilient and more able to handle life's stress when we are feeling our best both physically and emotionally.

Top Tips

  • Start by reading the NHS Inform 10 Stress Busters.
  • Engage in soothing activities (e.g., massages, relaxing bath).
  • Think about your diet. Eating regularly can make a difference to your mood and energy levels. See Mind’s food and mood.
  • Practice relaxation and use calming exercises such as Wellbeing Services 'TAKE 5 Relaxation Exercise' or NHS 'Relaxation Technique'.
  • Get adequate sleep. Visit ‘Sleep Problems’ for additional tips.
  • Spend time with family and friends. Talk about your feelings to a friend or family member. You can also Two people standing, one has their arm around the waist of the other contact free helplines such as: Breathing Space on 0800 83 85 87 or Samaritans on 116 123. If you would rather get support via text messaging, you can text Shout for free on 85258.

Self-Help Resources

Living with stress can be very difficult, but there are steps you can take that might help. These self-help guides, websites and apps may be helpful as you work towards managing stress. Like any new skill, it may take a bit of time and practice before you notice any changes in the way you feel.

Self-help Guides

NHS Inform Breathing and Relaxation 

NHS Scotland Steps to Deal with Stress Self-Help Booklet 

Wellbeing Glasgow Are you Feeling Stressed? Self-help Booklet

The Mental Health Foundation How to Manage and Reduce Stress Self-Help Booklet


Wellbeing Glasgow offer information to support you to manage how you feel, change the way that you think about some things and improve your problem-solving skills and confidence.

The Mental Health Foundation provides a large number of podcasts and videos to help you live a mentally happier life - from Relaxation for Better Sleep, to Mindfulness and How to Overcome Fear and Anxiety.

NHS Every Mind Matters offers a free Wellbeing Plan. Just answer 5 questions to get your free plan with tips to help you deal with stress and anxiety, improve your sleep, boost your mood and feel more in control.

Citizens Advice Scotland offer advice about benefits, debt problems, legal issues and local services. The Citizens Advice Bureau website has a directory listing its local offices.

Get Active is a great place to start if you are looking to become more active or increase your physical activity. They have a list of options to help you identify classes and activities offered throughout Greater Glasgow and Clyde.

Mind 2 Mind shares other peoples stories with managing stress.

Free Courses

NHS GG&C Mindfulness app contains links to free online courses (Online Courses nhsggc.org.uk) and notification of upcoming free summits Upcoming Events (nhsggc.org.uk). They also provide a range of other resources Resources (nhsggc.org.uk) and practices Guided Practices (nhsggc.org.uk).

Lifelink offer a variety of free online courses such as ‘Re-Assess your Stress’, ‘Art of Relaxation’ and ‘Coping with Change’. Each 2-hour class is delivered experienced facilitators. Participants with a Glasgow postcode can attend as many classes as they like. You can register directly for these classes without the need for any pre-assessment.

Living Life to the Full offer a course to help you learn new skills and tackle problems in your life that may be causing you to feel low worried or hopeless.

Get Support Now A life buoy at sea

Some people find that talking with friends and family about their feelings can be a real source of support for coping with distress or suicidal thoughts. It might be helpful for them to map their support network and think about people they could call if their feeling suicidal. Other people may prefer to seek more professional support or call a helpline such as Breathing Space, Samaritans or Shout.

  • Breathing Space: Call 0800 83 85 87
  • Samaritans: Call 116 123
  • SHOUT Crisis Text service also available 24/7 Text SHOUT to 85258

For some people they may be finding it difficult to cope and may think of ending their life, if you are concerned about your mental health and wellbeing, you can contact your G.P. within opening hours. If you feel you are in immediate danger, please call 999 for assistance.

Last reviewed: 17/11/2023

Next review date: 15/03/2024

Approved By: NHSGGC MH Supported Self-Management App Editorial Group

Reviewer name(s): NHSGGC MH Supported Self-Management App Editorial Group .