Even during the least challenging of times, like everything else related to our mental health and wellbeing - stress affects every single one of us. It is our internal response to things that are going on around us that feel challenging, difficult, scary, or just unusual or new.

'Feeling stressed' is completely natural, and a very normal part of life. In fact, if we never felt any stress at all then we would struggle to go about our lives, to get anything done, and to stay safe and away from danger. It becomes problematic when we find ourselves experiencing stress in a way which is harmful for us, and this can happen in a variety of ways. It effects our mental health, such as how we think and feel - but also the physical part of our health too. That means that In the short term it affects things such as our energy levels and our immune systems and over the longer term it can have more serious consequences for our health too. These serious consequences can be damaging for people of all ages, not least for children and young people for whom stress can be toxic to their psychological and biological development that is not only harmful at the time, but can lead to more health problems later in life.

Life has always been challenging enough, with stressful experiences being a feature of what we encounter very regularly in our day to day lives, but what we are all living through at the moment makes things so much more challenging. In short, life is much more stressful for most people at the moment than it has ever been. So it is more important than ever that we are aware of stress and how it can impact us and those around us, and to do whatever we can to try our best to do the things that we need to do to take care of ourselves (and support others to do so) by helping us to find our balance by regulating our minds and bodies so that the hormones that we release when we are stressed no longer have such an intense impact.

Our actions and thoughts that help us to regulate are the key to this essential part of our self care routine. And the fact that our experience of feeling stressed is our internal response to what is happening around us means we have some control over this. We can always try to choose thoughts and take actions that can lead to us feeling better - mentally and physically.

As with all elements of self care for mental health and wellbeing, how you do it is very much down to you. The only rule is that it must work for you. It might be connecting with others (in whatever way you can) or maybe you like to spend some time alone. It might be a walk or a run or to read or write, create, listen or watch. Perhaps you enjoy having fun and relaxing by cooking or to practice mindfulness and meditation. From a bath to a wild swim, from martial arts to dancing - anything that helps you to focus your actions and thoughts on the present moment is what works.

I am focusing mainly here on the impact of the types of situations that all people face as part of day to day life. For anyone who is experiencing stress due to being in danger, regarding their living situation for example, then the solution is obviously far more complicated than simply choosing a self care action. However, it remains the case that taking whatever steps that you possibly can to seek the support that you need is the way forward. Similarly if you have been struggling with your mental health for a long time. There is always help available, and there is always a way forward - even when it feels like there is not.

Small steps in the right direction are always important steps for our mental health, and right now small steps might be the best that we can possibly manage. But they all add up, and some day - hopefully soon - it will not feel this tough to feel ok.

Stay connected, stay active in any way that you can and stay safe.