Proper self-care including healthy meals, exercise and sleep can reduce stress.

What is stress?

Stress is the feeling state when we are under pressure. At times, stress can be a good thing. Exam stress can help motivate us to study. Performance stress helps push us to practice. But at times, the demands and pressures of our lives can overwhelm us. It can lead us into bad habits or negative thinking patterns. There can be many sources of stress in our lives including work, family, marital, financial, phase of life changes (e.g. retirement, becoming a parent) among others.

In some ways, stress is an unavoidable part of our lives. The key is being able to recognize our stress levels and to use effective coping skills to manage stress.

What are the symptoms of stress?

Each person responds differently to stress and can tolerate different levels of stress. Some areas where stress can be noticed include:

  • Physical changes including muscle tension, stomach upset, headache, nausea, sweating, heart pounding, etc.
  • Emotional changes including worry/anxiety, anger, irritability, feeling overwhelmed or depression.
  • Behaviour changes including poor eating and sleeping habits, not exercising, isolating from family/friends, increased drug or alcohol use, and decreased enjoyment of favoured activities.

How do we treat stress?

Being able to identify your stress levels and triggers for stress is an important first step. In this way, you may be able to prevent the onset or worsening of stressful situations. Each person has different triggers/sources of stress and as such the way in which it is treated will differ for each person.

Proper self-care including adequate meals, exercise, and sleep, avoiding or limiting the use of alcohol and drugs as possible if it fits your specific needs, and keeping up with favoured interests and activities can help reduce stress.

Effective problem solving skills can help people dealing with stress. This often includes planning ahead, prioritizing, making lists, delegating tasks, setting realistic goals and monitoring progress.

For some, seeking the support of family and friends can help reduce stress. For others, using the help of a professional counsellor is another effective source of support.

What should I do to get help?

If you or a friend/family member is suffering with severe and debilitating stress, it may be important to see your family doctor or speak with a mental health professional.


  • HealthLink BC: Stress management
    Call 811 or visit to access free, non-emergency health information for anyone in your family, including information about stress.
  • Canadian Mental Health Association: Stress
    Information that will help you understand your reaction to stressful events in your life and learn to handle stress effectively.
  • Headspace
    Learn to meditate in just 10 minutes a day with the Headspace app. Daily meditation has been shown to help people stress less, exercise more and even sleep better.