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It’s not always possible to control stressful situations, but it is possible to change how you respond to them. This can make a big difference to how stressed you feel.

Use this action plan to get a clearer picture of what causes your stress, and learn techniques to help you cope.

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Take action on stress

Recognising you need to do something about stress is your first step in managing it. Below we provide some tried and tested techniques that you can use to help you reduce the harmful effects of stress.

  • Read our guide to stress

    Understanding stress is your first step to managing it. If you haven’t already, read our guide.
  • Check your stress levels

    Use our Stress Check to find out if you're more stressed than you'd like to admit. Then get some advice on what you can do about your situation.

  • Write a diary to work out what causes your stress

    If you're not sure what's causing your stress, keep a diary. Jot down those moments when you felt most stressed. After a few weeks you'll have a clearer idea of what stresses you most.

    There'll always be things you can't control, but there are also practical things you can do to manage the pressure you're under. Look for stressors you can change, avoid or make less stressful.  
    Once you have a better idea of what’s causing your stress, you can make some changes. Try making adjustments to the way you organise your time, and prioritise the things that really are important to you.
  • Book an appointment with your GP

    If you think stress is having a significant negative impact on your life, book an appointment with your GP.

    A racing heart, shaking, chills or hot flushes, butterflies in your stomach, feeling restless, irritable, hopeless, tired or losing interest in the things you enjoy can all be early signs of trouble.
    Your doctor may offer you treatments like counselling or other types of therapy, peer support, or in some cases medication. Importantly, they may also be able to help you with some of the underlying causes of your stress. For example, if you're stressed because you're looking after a family member or friend who's ill, your doctor may tell you about a local support group that could help.
  • Tell others how you're feeling

    Share your experiences with people who've been through something similar to you. By sharing your thoughts you may find you get more day-to-day support from your friends and family. 

    If you’re stressed because of something at work, talk to your manager, union rep, someone in HR, or your employee assistance provider (EAP) if you have one. Employers are increasingly aware that stress at work can be a big problem, and many have ways to help employees who are struggling. 

    There's also a range of online communities, for example Big White Wall, who will help you to talk freely about pretty much anything. 
  • Take steps to improve your sleep

    Learn good sleep habits to help you get enough rest.

    Feeling stressed can mean you don't get enough sleep. And if you’re missing out on sleep, this can make you feel more stressed. Taking steps to ensure you get enough sleep can improve your low mood and reduce stress. It can also help you think more clearly, have more energy, and feel better about life.

    Find out how to get a better night's sleep.

  • Cut down or give up caffeine

    Take time to think about how much caffeine you consume each day. More than one or two cups of coffee, tea or caffeinated fizzy drink is probably too much. Caffeine, especially in people who are sensitive to it, can contribute to anxiety and related conditions, and disrupt your sleep.

    If you think you should reduce your caffeine intake, make a plan that lets you reduce it gradually. Instead of coffee, tea or a fizzy drink to boost your energy, introduce short midday walks into your daily plan and find a caffeine-free drink you like.
  • Cut down on or give up smoking

    Quit or cut down on smoking to help reduce your stress levels.

    You might feel like smoking helps you control your stress. But while nicotine may give you short-term relief, it doesn’t help you manage your stress. In fact, nicotine addiction actually causes a craving that feels similar to stress. That relief you feel when you smoke or vape is relief from your nicotine withdrawal symptoms. And since the craving is so frequent, all you gain by smoking or vaping is yet another source of stress. Thinking of quitting? Now’s the time.

    Get tips to help you quit from Smokefree or call the Smokefree National Helpline on 0300 123 1044.

  • Eat a healthy diet

    Making time to plan what you eat will help you reduce your levels of stress.

    When we're stressed, we’re often tempted to eat too much of the wrong kinds of food or even not eat enough. But what you eat, and when you eat, can make a big difference to your mood. In fact, eating healthily can be just as important for your mind as it is for your body.

    For tips, healthy swaps and recipes, check out Change4Life.

Next Steps

Use our action plan to create your own personalised to-do list with strategies for reducing your stress and improving your mood.
I realised I needed to take action when the Stress Check confirmed I was stressed ... I’d been trying to deny it for a while.