Self Help

How to help yourself cope with stress.

How do I know if I'm stressed?

It is normal to occasionally feel negative emotions such as fear, worry, sadness or anger. However, if these feelings are becoming frequent and disrupting your life, you may need help to cope. Stress can manifest in various ways, and its symptoms can differ from person to person. It's important to be aware of the signs of stress so that you can take the appropriate steps to manage it. Below are some common signs and symptoms of stress.

Physical symptoms manifest as changes to your body.  You may experience the following:

  • Headaches
  • Muscle tension or pain
  • Fatigue or low energy
  • Sleep disturbances (insomnia or excessive sleep)
  • Stomach problems (nausea, diarrhea, constipation)
  • Rapid heart rate or palpitations
  • Sweating excessively
  • Changes in appetite (overeating or loss of appetite)

Emotional symptoms involve changes to your mood. You may have a constant low mood, or experience mood swings.

  • Irritability or mood swings
  • Anxiety or excessive worry
  • Feelings of overwhelm
  • Depression or sadness
  • Feeling on edge or “jittery”
  • Trouble concentrating or making decisions
  • Loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy

Behavioural symptoms manifest as negative changes in your behaviour. Youmay begin avoiding responsibilities, isolating themselves, developing ticks or habits and abusing substances such as alcohol.

  • Increased use of substances (alcohol, tobacco, or drugs)
  • Changes in eating habits (overeating or undereating)
  • Procrastination or avoidance of responsibilities
  • Social withdrawal or isolation
  • Restlessness or fidgeting
  • Nervous habits (nail biting, pacing)

Cognitive symptoms relate to any negative changes to your thought process. You may find it difficult to concentrate or think deeply. You may also find that your memory has worsened.

  • Racing or intrusive thoughts
  • Memory problems
  • Difficulty in problem-solving or decision-making
  • Negative or self-critical thoughts
  • Inability to concentrate or focus

Stress can impact your relationships with others. The negative symptoms you may already be experiencing can cause you to push others away. You may struggle to communicate how you feel, which can make you feel worse.

  • Increased conflicts or tension with family, friends, or colleagues
  • Difficulty in communication or expressing yourself
  • Reduced empathy or patience with others

What are the different types of stress?

Stress can be categorized into several different types based on various factors, including the source or cause of the stress, the duration, and the impact on an individual's well-being.

Stress is a natural part of life, and not all stress is harmful. Short-term stress responses can help you respond to challenges and threats. However, excessive stress can have negative consequences for physical and mental health. CALMS offers effective stress management strategies that can help individuals cope with various types of stress and minimize their impact on well-being.

This is the most common and short-term form of stress. It often arises in response to a specific event or situation and triggers the body’s “fight or flight” response. Acute stress can be caused by everyday pressures, challenges, or unexpected events and typically subsides once the situation is resolved.

Chronic stress is long-term and ongoing stress that persists over an extended period, often resulting from ongoing problems or situations. It can have a more significant impact on physical and mental health than acute stress.

Some individuals experience frequent acute stress due to a pattern of repeated stressful situations or a tendency to worry excessively. People with this type of stress may feel like they’re always dealing with one crisis after another.

This type of stress arises from external factors like noise, pollution, overcrowding, or other environmental conditions. It can affect individuals living in high-stress environments or experiencing chronic environmental disruptions.

Work-related stress results from job-related pressures, such as high workloads, demanding deadlines, conflicts with co-workers, or an unsupportive work environment. It can lead to burnout and negatively impact an individual’s job performance and overall well-being.

Relationship stress can be caused by conflicts with family members, friends, or romantic partners. There could be communication problems, misunderstandings, or unresolved issues within the relationship. Seeing or experiencing a relationship break down can be the source of significant stress.

Financial stress occurs when individuals experience difficulties managing their finances. This can be caused by debt, unemployment, or the fear of economic instability. It can have a significant impact on mental and emotional well-being.

Traumatic stress is the result of exposure to a traumatic event, such as natural disasters, accidents, violence, or life-threatening situations. It can lead to conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and requires specialized treatment which trained CALMS therapists can provide.

This type of stress arises during significant life transitions, such as moving, changing jobs, getting married or having children. Even positive life events can be sources of stress due to the adjustments they require.

Certain individuals may experience stress related to their cultural identity, gender, sexual orientation, or other aspects of their identity when they encounter discrimination, prejudice, or social inequality.

How to deal with stress

You can deal with stress in a variety of ways. Everybody is different - what works for somebody else may not work for you. You don't have to make big changes to your life to improve your mental health and reduce stress.

It may take some trial and error to find out what works best for you. Don't get discouraged - the key is to be proactive about managing stress and to incorporate these techniques into your daily life.

It’s important to identify what is causing you stress in your day-to-day life. Once you have done this, you can work on strategies for dealing with stressors.

Physical activity is a powerful stress reliever. Regular exercise can improve your mood, increase energy levels, and promote overall well-being. This is because physical activity helps your brain produce endorphins, which make you feel good.

Creating a routine for yourself can give your day structure and routine. This can help reduce your overall stress levels and can provide a sense of stability and control. Make sure to include time for work, relaxation, and self-care.

You should break down your larger tasks into smaller, more manageable goals. This can make daunting tasks seem less overwhelming and more achievable. For example, setting a goal to go to the gym 3 days a week is more achievable than aiming to train for a marathon in 3 weeks.

Share how you feel with friends, family, or someone you trust. Other people can provide you with comfort, perspective, and practical assistance. However, don’t rely on friends and family to provide professional support. 

Making the right choices in your day-to-say life can improve your health and limit stress. Maintain a balanced diet, get adequate sleep, and limit the consumption of stimulants like caffeine and alcohol. These lifestyle choices contribute to improving your overall well-being.

Mindfulness involves paying attention to what is going on inside and outside ourselves, moment by moment. It is a mental state characterized by heightened awareness of one’s thoughts, feelings, and surroundings in the present moment

Paying more attention to the present – to your own thoughts and feelings, and to the world around you – can improve your mental wellbeing.

You can practice mindfulness through activities like yoga or tai chi. Mindfulness can help you stay present and reduce the impact of stress on your mental health.

At CALMS we offer courses such as our sound bath meditation that can help you practice mindfulness.

You should dedicate time to activities you enjoy. Hobbies provide a healthy outlet for stress and contribute to a sense of fulfilment and joy. Remember – if you spend time doing something you enjoy, it will never be a waste of time.

If possible, incorporate short breaks into your day to rest and recharge. Stepping away from a stressful situation, even for a few minutes, can make a significant difference.

If a situation or environment has been causing you a great deal of stress, removing yourself may be the best possible option. For example, if your workplace has been the source of significant stress, you may need to talk to your GP to get signed off on a stress-related illness.

Breathing Techniques

CALMS can provide guidance on how to perform various breathing techniques. (Coming soon…)

How CALMS can help you

CALMS is committed to providing effective support for people suffering from stress and stress related illnesses as a result of the Troubles. We offer a selection of treatments and therapies that can be beneficial for reducing stress and improving your mental health.

At CALMS, we know that talking to someone else about your problems can be beneficial to your mental health. You may want to speak to one of our counsellors who are trained to listen and can help you to explore your feelings and emotions in a safe, secure and conducive environment.

Complementary therapy is a therapy that is used in addition to conventional medicine or treatments. It is usually carried out in combination with conventional treatment, and can help you cope with receiving treatment.

Complementary therapies can assist with the following conditions:

  • Coping with depression and stress
  • Reduce stress and tension
  • Assist with sleep problems and fatigue.

Treatments on offer include:

  • Reflexology
  • Swedish Massage
  • Reki
  • Body Massage
  • Indian Head Massage

CALMS offers a number of programmes and services to the community. These courses aim to bring awareness to these issues and build resilience in tackling stress and stress related illnesses.

These programmes include:

  • Health Talks/Seminars
  • Stress Management
  • Resilience Training
  • Trauma Awareness Workshops
  • Complementary Therapy Workshops
  • Psycho/Social Educational Workshops


If you are currently in crisis and need immediate help, we would recommend the following services:


available 24 hours

telephone 0808 808 8000


available 24 hours

telephone 116 123

Out of Hours GP

Western Urgent Care – covers the Derry and Strabane area

telephone 028 7186 5195

For more information: GP out of hours service | nidirect