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Stress

Good stress can keep us motivated and focused, but often young people are dealing with too much pressure. It’s important to find ways to relax and take a break when we need one.

Everyone feels stress from time to time. It's the body’s normal reaction to feeling scared or under pressure - it gets the heart beating faster, and makes us react quicker and work harder. A little bit of stress is good - it helps us stay motivated and focused.

Young people have to deal with a lot of stress and pressure. They might be worrying about friendships, relationships, school work, bullying, family, jobs, fitting in, appearances - it’s a lot to think about. Sometimes parents can put too much pressure on young people to achieve. If people stay stressed for too long, or have too many things causing stress in their lives, they can become physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted.

It’s important to learn how to relax and unwind, let go of things we can’t control and take a break when we need one.

Keeping an eye out

Stress affects everybody differently. Sometimes, stress can creep up on people and they don’t realise why they're not feeling good. If someone you care about is under a lot of pressure, you might notice they:

  • Have changes in appetite: they don’t feel like eating, or eat lots of food all at once
  • Have headaches, stomach-aches or get sick often
  • Feel tired all the time, or want to sleep a lot
  • Are tense, irritable, or restless
  • Become depressed or withdrawn
  • Have big mood swings
  • Have trouble making decisions
  • Use drugs or alcohol to cope
  • Self harm or injure themselves

Healthy conversations

If stress gets to be too much, it can get in the way of people being able to feel happy and healthy. Talking to someone about what’s going on can help them sort out their thoughts and feel more relaxed.

  • Ask them how they are feeling. Just talking about what’s causing someone to feel stressed out can really help them feel better
  • Ask about how they have handled stressful situations in the past. What worked? What didn’t work? If something did work, could they try that again now?
  • If stress is causing someone to do things that makes you feel upset or hurt - such as yelling, name calling, or saying mean things - talk to that person about it. They might be under a lot of pressure, but that doesn’t mean they are allowed to hurt other people. Name a specific behaviour you are unhappy with, and ask them to stop
  • If stress is causing someone to hurt themselves by doing things such as cutting or using drugs and alcohol, talk to them about it. Help them think of other of other ways of coping. Offer to go to a doctor or counsellor with them

Taking action

Relaxing is about taking a break, and doing something fun to get your mind off things that are bothering you.

  • What do you do to relax? Some people like going for a long walk or spending time with friends. Are there some relaxing activities you could do together?
  • Make a plan to do something stress-free every day, and let each other know how you are going
  • Other things that help are eating well, drinking plenty of water, exercising and getting enough sleep. You could suggest they make sure they’re doing all these things too
  • Help make a plan about how to deal with whatever’s causing the stress. If it’s schoolwork, make a list of all the things that need to be done, then plan when they can do them and how long each task will take

Resources

Youthline

Confidential Helpline: 0800 376 633

Youthline provides free phone, text, and email counselling support. Its website has great information for youth dealing with challenging situations including how to cope with stress.

Guidelines for Supporting Young People with Stress, Anxiety and/or Depression

Developed under the Prime Minister’s Youth Mental Health Project, this online resource aims to help anyone who a young person confides in about supporting their wellbeing, including support for mild to moderate mental health issues such as stress, anxiety and mild depression.

The Guidelines are designed to support people ‘walking alongside’ a young person to help them access mental health advice and support.

CALM-Computer Assisted Learning for the Mind

The University of Auckland has some ideas on how to manage stress through its programme CALM-Computer Assisted Learning for the Mind.

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