Stress is the response of your body and mind to demands placed on you. When you feel threatened, your brain releases hormones that prepare your body to take action—you sweat, your breathing quickens, your heart rate goes up, and your muscles tense. This stress response is what allowed our human ancestors to either run or fight when face-to-face with a threat. Of course, these days most of the threats we face aren’t ones we can deal with in this way.
Most people can minimize the effects of stress with self-care techniques like exercise, meditation, getting a good night’s sleep, and eating well.
What is normal?
Stress itself is not a mental illness. Stress is a normal reaction to the demands of life. A small amount of stress can be good, since it motivates you to perform well. But multiple stressful challenges every day can make it tough to cope. If stress keeps piling up, and starts to make you feel worse instead of motivating you, it can harm your mental and physical health.
What are common signs and symptoms?
Learning to identify the following signs may help you better manage your stress.
Changes in your body:
- Muscles feel tense
- Breathing and heart rate feel quicker
- Headaches or stomach aches
- Changes in my sleep or appetite
- Feeling tired
Changes in your actions:
- Using alcohol, cigarettes, or other drugs to help cope
- Withdrawing from others
- Drinking more coffee
- Losing patience with people
- Avoiding situations that are stressful
Changes in your emotions:
- Feeling worried and confused
- Feeling angry and irritable
- Feeling like you can’t cope
Changes in your thinking:
- Having trouble concentrating, remembering, and making decisions
- Thoughts race
- Losing self-confidence
- Negative attitude toward yourself and your life
Should I seek help?
Because the causes and effects of stress are different for everyone, we all need to find our own way to cope. Many people can minimize the effect of stress in their life with self-care techniques. Talk about your stress with friends or family; share your workload if you can; don’t procrastinate; get more exercise; try meditation; make sure you get a good night’s sleep; and be sure to eat well.
If you still find you struggle to deal with stress, talk to your doctor about other strategies to manage it.
Wellness Together Canada
Wellness Together Canada is a mental health and substance use website to support people across Canada and Canadians living abroad in both official languages. They provide the following resources for you at no cost:
Well Central & Well-being Course
Well Central is an accessible and completely free virtual Recovery College offering interactive courses that empower individuals to take control of their mental health and well-being.
Discover tools to help support your mental health efforts in creating a space where workers feel safe, respected, and valued.
Mental Health 101
Knowledge is power. This series of free online tutorials is a starting point for learning about mental health. You can come away with a greater understanding of the mental health concern you are interested in knowing more about.
Psychological First Aid pocket guide
This exciting program option teaches everyone how to help others experiencing loss, grief and stress, and also self-care.
Is anxiety getting in the way of your life?
Antidepressant Skills at Work
A self-care guide that teaches employees skills for managing depression and low mood. It utilizes established cognitive-behavioural techniques with a specific focus on workplace issues.
WalkAlong isn't your typical mental health website, it is a community where young Canadians can explore their mental health amongst their peers.
We can all take actions to improve our ‘mood’ or mental wellness. The Mood Meter is a creative way for you to think about how you are feeling and what actions you can take to improve your mental wellness.
The 30 Day Mindfulness Challenge teaches you how to lower stress, increase resilience and improve well-being, performance and optimism so you can become more present at work, out in the community, or with friends and family.
Therapy Assistance Online (TAO)
Online library of engaging, interactive programs to learn life skills and to help you bounce back from disappointments or stumbling blocks in life.
Dealing With Depression
Teaches a set of skills (realistic thinking, how to solve problems, setting goals you can achieve) that you can apply to your own life to overcome depression.
ICAN (Conquer Anxiety and Nervousness)
The Adult ICAN (Conquer Anxiety and Nervousness) Anxiety program (ages 18+) is designed to help you learn skills to control, face and deal with your anxiety. You will learn skills to use daily, to help you overcome your anxiety and deal with major...
IWK Mental Health and Addictions Program
The IWK Mental Health and Addictions Program provides specialized care throughout the province for children and youth up until their 19th birthday within a patient and family...
Canadian Mental Health Association - Colchester East Hants Branch
The Canadian Mental Health Association, Colchester East Hants Branch provides public education, advocacy, and a resource center to support the resiliency and recovery of...
Canadian Mental Health Association - Halifax-Dartmouth Branch
The Canadian Mental Health Association, Halifax-Dartmouth Branch works at the community level and facilitates access to the resources people require to maintain and improve...
Canadian Mental Health Association - Nova Scotia Division
Canadian Mental Health Associations in Nova Scotia are the oldest community-based mental health and addictions charitable organizations in the province, founded in 1908. The...
Healthy Minds Cooperative
Healthy Minds Cooperative is an innovative mental health cooperative that provides a variety of peer-based services to people with lived experience of mental health issues and...
Hope for Wellness HelpLine
The Hope for Wellness HelpLine offers immediate mental health counselling and crisis intervention to all Indigenous peoples across Canada. Experienced and culturally competent...
Eskasoni Mental Health
Eskasoni Mental Health Services (EMHS) provides a wide range of services to the Mi’kmaq people of Eskasoni, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. The Tui'kn Residential School Survivor...
Caregivers Nova Scotia
Caregivers Nova Scotia provides free programs, services, information, and advocacy for family and friend caregivers. We are dedicated to providing recognition and practical assistance to friends and family giving care.
Kids Help Phone
Kids Help Phone is Canada’s only 24/7, national support service. We offer professional counselling, information and referrals and volunteer-led, text-based support to young...
211 is a free, confidential information and referral service that can connect you to thousands of programs and services offered by local community groups, nonprofits and government departments across Nova Scotia, 24/7.
Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare Services - Mental Health Programs and Services
Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare Services (CFMWS) is responsible for administering Non-Public Property (NPP) on behalf of the Chief of the Defence Staff and for delivering...
Veterans Affairs Canada Assitance Service
Veterans Affairs provide targeted services and benefits to improve well-being including support and services related to your physical and mental health and wellness.The VAC...
Phoenix Centre for Youth
Phoenix Centre for Youth is a walk-in centre that helps youth ages 12-24 years who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless in their day-to-day lives. Services offered are...
Health Psychology offers psychological interventions for those with chronic and acute health conditions. The main focus is on the patient's mental and emotional reaction to an illness or their recovery from an illness.
Mental Health Day Treatment Program
The Mental Health Day Treatment Program is a full-time, six week intensive group psychotherapy program. The program is for individuals with mental illness who also have long...
First Responders Assist
This service will offer short-term counselling and supportive services, including follow up if needed, for first responders and their families impacted by the tragedies of...
Adult Neurodevelopmental Stabilization Unit - Dual Diagnosis Program (Intellectual Disability in combination with Mental Illness)
The Adult Neurodevelopmental Stabilization Unit (ANSU) is an acute care unit that provides services for persons with intellectual disability and acute mental illness that...
Community Outreach Assessment Support and Treatment Team (COAST) - Dual Diagnosis Program (Intellectual Disability in combination with Mental Illness)
The community outreach assessment support and treatment team provides services for persons with both intellectual disability and also mental illness. These services include:...
School Mental Health (SchoolsPlus)
The school mental health clinicians provide individual and group therapy, mental health and addictions education for school staff and consultation services. Clinicians are on...
Operational Stress Injury (OSI) Clinic
The Operational Stress Injury (OSI) Clinic provides mental health services to Veterans, eligible members of the Canadian Forces (CF), RCMP members and former members, who have...
Provincial Mental Health and Addictions Crisis Line
The Provincial Mental Health and Addictions Crisis Line provides crisis intervention for children, youth and adults experiencing a mental health crisis or mental distress.
First Nations Services
Mental Health clinicians work as part of the first nations health care team in several first nations communities. The Mental Health Clinician provides assessment, diagnosis...
Adult Community Mental Health and Addictions Services
Community Mental Health and Addictions includes a team of mental health and addictions professionals who provide services on an outpatient basis. The team provides assessment...
Child and Adolescent Services
Child and Adolescent Services/Child Youth and Family/Child and Adolescent Outpatient Clinical Services provide mental health and addiction services to children and youth...
CaperBase Outreach Services
CaperBase is a one-stop shop resource centre for youth up to age 24.
We work with youth, families, schools, and community organizations to provide a safe, youth-friendly space that is confidential and non-judgmental.