Stress and me

Stress is the way your body responds to challenges, preparing you to face them with attention, energy and strength. For young people, stress may be uncomfortable, but by itself is not a bad thing. Sometimes we need stress to force us into action and motivate us to perform well or get a job done.

When we have too many challenges but do not have the right resources to deal with them, stress can become difficult. When this happens, we often talk about being ‘under stress’ ‘stressed’ or ‘stressed out’.

Stress can change the way you think, feel, and act.

Some situations present unique forms of stress. Learn more about mental health and HIV and managing the stress of being a young parent.

Signs of Stress

Stress changes your feelings. You may feel:

  • nervous,
  • moody,
  • tearful,
  • sad,
  • quick to anger,
  • depressed, or
  • desperate

Stress impacts our bodies. You may have:

  • headaches,
  • shoulder pain,
  • stomach or jaw pain,
  • frequent colds or infections,
  • weight loss or gain,
  • dizziness, or
  • rapid breathing.

Stress changes the way we think. You may struggle to:

  • concentrate,
  • remember,
  • organize,
  • plan, or
  • make decisions.

You may also notice that you spend time dwelling on problems and find it difficult to slow down your thinking or switch off, especially on social media.

Stress changes the way we act. You may:

  • stop participating in activities you usually like,
  • refuse to go to school, or
  • stop studying well.

People under stress are often living in extremes: either constantly on the move or have difficulty getting out of bed. Sleep may be affected either sleeping too little or too much. Some people may turn to using over-the-counter pain relievers or use alcohol or other drugs. They may act aggressively towards other or property.

Causes of Stress

Many things bring pressure to young people. These may include:

  • school, homework, tests, and getting along with friends,
  • life changes, like graduation, university, or work,
  • being too busy,
  • feeling unprepared, or not knowing how to do things.

Other things that can contribute to stress include poor sleep and diet, trauma, or change in circumstance, including the death of a friend or family member.

To take action, check out these resources:

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