A moderate amount of stress can be good for you; it gets you excited about life, motivates you and improves your performance. When stress becomes too intense or continues for a prolonged period of time however, it becomes harmful and impacts our lives negatively.

Everybody experiences stress. Some groups of people are more susceptible to stress than others. For example, healthcare professionals, pilots, firefighters, customer service officers, stockbrokers, teachers, students etc.

Stress can occur anytime. There are certain periods when we are more susceptible to stress, for example during exam periods, festive seasons, when someone in the family is ill, and during crisis and emergencies.

Related: Signs of Stress: Could Stress Be Good for You?

Causes of Stress

It might be an impending deadline at work, an important exam, relationship problems, or a traumatic event such as an accident. There are many different sources of stress and even positive life events such as planning your wedding may contribute to stress. Circumstances that cause stress are called stressors and we experience a wide range of stressors every day.

External Sources

  • Personal issues
  • Work problems
  • Relationship difficulties
  • Pressures of studies
  • Health problems
  • Financial crisis
  • Unemployment
  • Losses e.g. bereavement
  • Unexpected news
  • Daily hassles

Related: Q&A: Dealing with Work Stress

Internal Sources

  • Thinking styles
  • Negativity: "I'm useless, a loser, a failure."
  • Suspicion: "Why are they so nice to me?"
  • Social Skills
  • Shy, unassertive
  • Aggressive, bossy
  • Personality type
    • Type A: Hostile, impatient, multi-task all the time, always on the go, competitive, overly responsible
    • Type B: Laid back, introspective, calm, easy-going,
    • Type C: Calm on the outside; agitated inside, often suppress and don't express feelings.

Related: Stress

Signs and Symptoms of Stress

If some stress is good, how does one tell when it turns into a negative impact on one’s life then? There are behavioural, mental, emotional and physical signs to look out for that tell us when the stress has become too much to handle.

When this stress is prolonged and not managed, it may lead to medical conditions such as high blood pressure, heart conditions, and depression.


  • Aches & pains
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue/Lethargy
  • Palpitation
  • Stomach upsets
  • Dizziness
  • Sexual Dysfunction

Related: Headache and Migraine


  • Anxious/Worry
  • Tensed
  • Irritable/Jumpy
  • Depressed/Moody
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Restless

Related: Depression


  • Forgetfulness
  • Poor concentration
  • Mental block
  • Difficulty in organising & making decisions


  • Sleep problems
  • Crying
  • Poor appetite
  • Falling ill- cold, coughs
  • Withdrawal
  • Smoking/Drinking excessively

Related: How Sleep Deprivation Affects Your Mental Well-being

Managing Stress

Stress is inevitable and a part and parcel of life. To effectively manage stress, it is important to first identify your stressors. Once you have identified the cause of your stress, it becomes easier to manage it.

Most of us might already have methods to cope with stress. Talking to a loved one or a close friend about how the day went can be a great stress-reliever. Sometimes, all we need is a listening ear to help us let go of our fears. However, not all methods are good for us. Stress eating, stress shopping, or binge drinking after a long day might help ameliorate a stressful situation by providing quick relief, but they are neither healthy nor effective long term solutions.

There are foods that aid in counteracting stress, but remember that moderation is key. Opt for healthy snacks like nuts or fruits, and enjoy a cup of chamomile tea instead of a Long Island to calm your thoughts and ease those anxieties away.

A healthy body and a healthy mind makes a happy life. Be sure to get enough sleep and exercise regularly to release those endorphins that keep us positive and happy. Proper breathing techniques, yoga, and meditation not only help manage stress, they are also highly beneficial to your mental well-being.

We might not be able to control the situations that cause us stress, but we can control how we manage it.

Related: Stress Management: Be a Master of Stress

1.  Know Oneself

Self-awareness, recognition and acceptance of ourselves are important for stress management. We need to know what are the things that can make us tick and react to stress.

2.  Renew (Re-Programme) Your Mind

Being able to recognise and change our negative thinking styles would alter our feelings and eventually actions, towards external and internal sources of stress.

Related: The Keys to Happiness: Mindfulness and Positive Experiences

3.  Seek Balance and Flexibility

Stress can come about as a result of a sense of loss and insecurity. To balance, be more flexible in matching your response to the context and situation.

Related: Your Guide to Stress Management

4.  Have Goals, Dreams & Passion

Goals provide us with a sense of direction and perspective. With a clear focus and passion, we feel a greater sense of control and purpose in life.

Related: 5 Good Eating Habits to Achieve Your Health Goals

5.  Get Supporters

We are social beings and we function with others. We do best when we are surrounded by supportive family or friends. They provide us with the assurance and validation that we need in the midst of a stressful situation.

Related: Fun and Healthy Activities with Friends for Stress Relief

6.  Get a Higher Frame of Reference

We can also receive assurance and hope from our spiritual beliefs. Many studies have confirmed the benefits of having strong faith as a powerful stress-buffer, enhancing our ability to cope with life's more serious stresses.

Related: The Science of Happiness

7.  Look After Your Body

A healthy body is a natural defence against stress. Eating and sleeping well ensures better health and a sense of well-being. Regular exercise helps to build physical and mental strength against stress.

Related: How to Stop Craving for Junk Food and Be Happy with Healthier Food

8.  Use Stress-Coping Strategies

It is important to have good and effective outlets and coping strategies. Poor coping strategies will worsen stress.

Some examples of effective coping strategies are:

  • Engage in activities you enjoy
  • Practise relaxation techniques
  • Talk to someone you trust
  • Engage in physical exercises
  • Prioritise tasks accordingly
  • Love oneself
  • Seek professional help

In a nutshell, the 3A's of Effective Stress Management are:

  • Awareness - look out for the signs of stress
  • Analyse - determine the source of your stress
  • Apply - use strategies to help you cope better with stress

Remember: Work on a plan; then the plan will work for you!

Related: Reduce Caregiver Stress by Practicing Mindfulness

Where to Find Professional Help

Whilst some people may benefit from self-help strategies, others may need some professional support to help manage their stress. There are support options available for people who may find their stress overwhelming.

Hotlines to Seek Help

There are various hotlines available to the general public.

  • National CARE 24-hour hotline: 6202 6868 (for any issues that you are worried about, be it stress over finances, marital and family tensions, or on COVID-19 and its impact on your personal and family lives)
  • SOS: 1800-221 4444
  • Mandarin Hotline 800: 1800-353 5800
  • Counselling & Care Centre: 6596 6966

Professional Consultation Is Also Accessible At:

Clinic Appointment Number Address
IMH Specialist Outpatient Clinics6389 2200Click here for locations
Counselling And Care Centre6536 6366Block 536 Upper Cross Street
#05-241 Hong Lim Complex
Singapore 050536
Care Corner Mandarin Counselling Centre6353 5800Block 149 Lorong 1
Toa Payoh #01-963
Singapore 310149

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Related: Helplines for Mental Health

Visit MindSG for more tools to take care of your mental well-being.

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