The Impact of Mental Illness on Stress Levels

by Givey Team

17 November 2021

According to Healthline, ‘stress is defined as a state of mental or emotional strain caused by adverse circumstances’. [1]

I always think of having mental illness as looking through an open door with obstacles that prevent you from being able to walk through it easily. It can be a struggle, especially when the obstacles get harder to overcome. But, in the words of Fredrick Douglass, “if there is no struggle, there is no progress.” 

In this article, I want to talk about how mental illness can have a positive impact on your stress levels. There is plenty of information about the negative impact already. How mental illness can make you more stressed, isolated and physically unhealthy. 

No one talks about the silver lining to the dark cloud we call mental illness. 

So, here are three ways mental illness can help you manage your stress:

1. Experience

If you have a mental illness and you are recovering chances are you will have been advised on how to manage your stress. Through trial and error, you will have been able to find out which stress management techniques work for you. 

Personally, I find that there’s nothing better than having a cup of tea and delving into a good book. Or, when I’m feeling more energetic, going on a woodland walk with a close friend.

If you are just starting out on your journey of stress recovery, here are some ways you can reduce your stress levels…

  • Take part in a relaxing activity such as exercise, meditation, reading or painting. Anything you find that puts your mind at ease.
  • Become your own supporter. Try not to be too self-critical. 
  • Be assertive and don’t take on too much too quickly. This can be applied to work situations especially when there’s a deadline approaching.
  • Live healthily so that you have the energy to deal with life’s stressors. Eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep and rest all play a part.
  • Share your worries with someone you trust. This could be your therapist, a loved one or a close friend. Whoever you feel most comfortable with.

2. Strength in recovery

Having a mental illness and surviving the struggles can make you feel stronger. 

Now, this won’t be the same for everyone. Every experience of mental illness is unique and equally as valuable. However, I have found that being able to get back from rock bottom allows me to put things into perspective. 

When I feel sad about my favourite tv show being cancelled or missing a friend I just think back to where I was. This enables me to think more logically about the situation. I can think about the fact that there will be other shows on television. Or, that my friend is only on holiday for a week. The fact is that these stressors are only small in comparison to being mentally unwell. 

You can apply this idea to any moment when you feel sad or annoyed about something small. Imagine how much happier you will be when you can appreciate what you have instead of feeling sorry for yourself. 

Life is all about cherishing the moments we can. When you are ill, too stressed or in hospital you learn about the importance of these. The walks on the beach, the taste of a roast dinner on a Sunday and the milestones you never get to re-do. 

Remember that you have survived the hard times and that you are stronger than you seem.

3. Creativity 

Stress can actually make you more creative.

This is what I have found. Dealing with stress over a long period of time has led to me finding writing a therapeutic way of overcoming it. The obstacles I talked about earlier weren’t easy to get past, but writing has helped me find my way out of the door and into the world. 

Getting creative can help lower stress levels and alleviate anxiety. An American study found that college students that finished creative projects had a decrease in their anxiety. [2]

Nicolas Turiano, a psychologist from West Virginia University, said that, 

“Creative people may see stressors more as challenges that they can work to overcome rather than as stressful obstacles they can’t overcome.” [3]

This is certainly true for me, as I use writing as a way to work out how I am feeling and use this to challenge negative thoughts I may have. 

Perhaps it is the freedom to express ourselves that helps us to reduce stress when getting creative too. Being able to use our imaginations to create something truly important to us is a valuable skill to have. This could include making drawings, poems, songs, scripts or anything we feel inspired to create.

I hope this article inspires you to make time for relaxation and shows that mental illness doesn’t always have to be negative.

Wherever you are in your wellbeing journey, I hope that you look after yourself and find strategies that work for you.

If you found this article helpful to read, check out the following posts:





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Written By Ella Dunthorne

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