Health Mental health General wellbeing Stress - what is it? We’ve all felt stressed at some point in our lives, and it can be particularly debilitating at times. Being stressed can mean being overwhelmed or burnt out, having feelings of losing control, or being unable to cope. Stress isn’t categorised as a mental disorder like anxiety or depression, and it’s normal to experience a certain amount of stress. Stress becomes problematic when it becomes extreme or chronic, affecting your quality of life. Signs and Symptoms Stress can look different for everyone, and there are a variety of ways it can manifest mentally and physically. Some include: Irritability or snappiness Worsening of existing mental health problems e.g. anxiety or depression Anxiousness or nervousness Sadness or worrying Disordered eating i.e. overeating, undereating, or bingeing Inability to concentrate Palpitations and increased heart rate Trouble sleeping Increased drinking or drug use Headaches or dizziness Sexual problems or increasing sexual activity Feeling overwhelmed or dreadful Emotional numbness Why are LGBTQ+ people more susceptible to stress? Stress can arise as a result of the inequalities LGBTQ+ people and other minority groups face. Studies show that LGBTQ+ people are more likely to experience emotional distress than the general population. Being discriminated against, whether in a directly personal way or more indirectly by living in a heteronormative society, can cause chronic stress and make other mental health problems worse. Stress is often linked with mental health problems such as depression and anxiety, which LGBTQ+ people are also more predisposed to than the general population. Additional stressors LGBTQ+ people often have to deal with include family rejection, coming out, hostile social environments, traumatic situations related to discrimination, financial instability, and lack of housing. These circumstances can make it more likely for an individual to experience stress, and subsequently, any of the signs and symptoms listed above. How to deal with stress? First and foremost, It’s important to see a professional if stress is getting in the way of your daily functioning or if you’re having thoughts of suicide. There are some ways you can try to reduce stress at home. Here are some tips for managing stress: Practising mindfulness - Mindfulness involves bringing awareness to the senses and what you are feeling in the moment. It can help you cope with and process your stress. Learn more about mindfulness here: https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/self-help/tips-and-support/mindfulness/ Physical activity and going on walks - Getting your body moving and/or getting outside can produce endorphins that help relieve stress. Considering how your current situation might be causing you stress - Try taking a step back and thinking about how your current situation might be affecting you. Are you feeling particularly stressed about work or a tough relationship? It may help to talk to someone and think about what changes you can make in your life to make it less stressful. Journaling - Try writing down five things that you’re thankful for. Having a place to process your feelings and get in a mindset of gratitude can help you deal with stress. Socialising - It can be tempting to isolate ourselves when we get stressed or are dealing with other mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression. However, studies show that social interaction can positively affect our mental health. Call a friend, set up lunch, or go for coffee. Finding community - We all want to be loved and accepted. This can be hard as an LGBTQ+ person, but there are loving and accepting spaces out there. Eating healthy and getting enough sleep - Stress can make it harder to eat or sleep properly. It’s important to pay attention to your eating and sleeping habits when you’re going through a bout of stress, and do your best to get at least seven to eight hours of sleep a night and eat three meals a day. Speaking to a therapist or doctor - Talking to a mental health professional is a good idea when dealing with overwhelming stress. It can be a great way to work through your problems, feel validated, and take steps towards a healthier life. Try to seek help when you need it, as there’s no shame in asking for help. Why is dealing with stress important? While stress is something that everybody deals with at some point or another, it’s important to take notice when you are feeling stressed and take steps towards managing it. If it’s more severe, this may mean seeing a professional such as a doctor or therapist, and if it’s more mild, this could mean trying some of the at-home remedies listed above. Chronic stress is stress that persists for a long period of time and is especially important to deal with. Prolonged stress can put you more at risk for physical and mental health problems. Asking for help can be difficult and scary at times, but it’s important to take care of yourself and pay attention to the stressors in your life. What Next? - The NHS has a great stress busting guide on its website. - The mental health charity Mind also has a comprehensive guide to stress on its website, with tips for management and links to further resources. - The LGBT HERO forums are somewhere you can decompress and talk about your life if you're coping with stress. - If you'd like to talk to someone on the phone, then try calling Switchboard, the LGBTQ+ helpline on 0300 330 0630, 10am - 10pm.