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Updated : August 1, 2022 2.5 mins read

The relationship between stress, worry and low mood

Updated : August 1, 2022 2.5 mins read

Article Depression Stress Worry

As we’ve been exploring our mental wellbeing, one theme that keeps reoccurring is the relationship between our physical and mental health. This relationship can be seen as a carefully built machine; each cog needs to work with the others to keep the machine running. If one cog runs too fast or too slow, the machine can break down.

As seen in our articles “what is anxiety” and “what is depression”, we can often experience physical symptoms alongside difficulties with our mental health. Anxiety (which is a physical function that we all have) can sometimes lead to depression, an emotional state which can make us feel sad for weeks at a time. We have also explored what stress is and how it can impact on our mental health.

There are many theories behind why our physical and mental health are so closely linked. Many of these theories focus on the interplay between what happens physically when we feel low or anxious, whilst some describe our feelings influencing our physical behaviour. What we do know though, is that stress is often a key trigger for our emotions changing. We also know that since stress is also a physical reaction to mental stimuli, its clear that the role between stress, anxiety and low mood is more complex than we may realise.


As stress, anxiety and low mood are so closely linked, its very difficult to say what is the starting point. For some people, dealing with chronic stress may lead to anxiety which may lead to low mood. For others, low mood may lead to stress which may also lead to anxiety. Sometimes, it can be very difficult to unpick the complex feelings you may be feeling as they’re so closely related.

The key message though, is that looking after our mental health and recognising when stress may become dangerous is part of being mentally healthy. There are some key foundations to looking after our wellbeing which you can explore in our “6 ways to wellbeing” article, but when you are experiencing stress, the main things to remember are:

  • Sleep: when we experience stress, our sleep patterns may change. Sleep is one of the most important tools that we can use to help heal our body, so it’s especially important to get at least 8 hours of sleep during stressful times. If you can, try to not drink caffeine at least 4 hours before bed, set up a relaxing bedtime routine and avoid screens at least 1 hour before you go to sleep.
  • Take time: taking some time out to do things that we enjoy such as hobbies can be really important when we’re feeling stressed. Why not make a list of activities you enjoy doing, so that when you are feeling stressed you know what you can turn to?
  • Connect: spending time with our friends and family can do a lot to help us when we’re feeling especially stressed.
  • Be kind: when we’re going through a stressful period, sometimes we can be negative towards ourselves. Remember – the way you are feeling is normal and is your body reacting how it is supposed to. Speak nicely to yourself; what would you say to a friend who is going through a hard time?

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If you are concerned about your mental health, or if you have found yourself feeling concerned about someone else, you can:

Call 111 – NHS 24

Call 116 123 – The Samaritans

Call 0800 83 85 87 – Breathing Space

Text: ‘YM’ to 85258 – Young Minds crisis chat

If you think you are in danger of hurting yourself or other people, you should call 999 or present to your local A&E department.