Coping with stress in Canada

By Maria Montemayor

Posted on March 29, 2021


There were probably many times in your life when you felt stressed. You felt overwhelmed when you immigrated to Canada. You felt stressed when you weren’t able to find work. You felt stressed when you lost your job. You realized you were stressed when you argued with a coworker, family member, or spouse. You felt stressed when you watched the news.

Stress can be prevalent during major events (for example, attending a funeral, having a baby, or buying a house), during minor incidents, and during a pandemic. According to one report:

  • 33 per cent of Canadians have felt stressed “regularly”
  • 13 per cent of Canadians have felt stressed “all the time” because of the COVID-19 outbreak
  • 38 per cent of Canadians have felt stressed only “occasionally”

A little bit of stress can be normal and even help motivate you, but chronic stress—a prolonged feeling of stress as a result of constant exposure to difficult situations—can negatively harm you physically, mentally, and emotionally. Many individuals, especially students, may have the misguided belief—defined as “stress culture”—that they are not working hard if they are not stressed and that stress equals success. However, stress does not equal success. In fact, it can reduce your quality of life and increase your health risks.

We’ll take a look at signs that you are overstressed, provide ways you can prevent, lessen, or manage your stress, and point you toward resources in Canada you can use to help you cope with it.

packing a suitcase

Signs of stress:

You may feel:

  • Angry, shocked, irritable, frustrated
  • Sad, worried, restless, anxious
  • Unable to focus, organize, or motivate yourself

You may experience:

  • Headaches
  • High blood pressure
  • Chest, muscle, or back pain
  • Diarrhea, constipation, indigestion, nausea, or vomiting
  • Issues with irregular or heavy menstrual periods
  • Loss or increase of appetite
  • Problems with memory or concentration
  • Negative thinking
  • Loss of energy, interest, and enjoyment in things you formerly enjoyed

What you can do:

Here are things you can do to prevent, alleviate, and manage stress.

1. Keep a journal and stay organized

Write down your daily thoughts and feelings. Figure out what makes you feel stressed and what you can do to solve or manage those issues. Plan a weekly schedule of activities and tasks. Try to finish important tasks ahead of time.

2. Exercise regularly

Exercise can clear your mind, help you relax, and improve your strength, stamina, and self-image. Endorphins, which are released during exercise, lift your mood. Check out this article on tips to overcome barriers to physical fitness.

3. Follow a healthy diet

A healthy diet consists of eating lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grain foods, and plant-based protein foods, and drinking water. When you eat a healthy diet, you ward off the negative effects of stress by boosting your immune system and lowering your blood pressure (which helps you avoid heart attacks, strokes, and other serious health problems). Healthy foods not only nourish your body, but they also deliver nutrients to your brain, reduce inflammation, and help improve your mood. A healthy diet can make you feel at your best physically and emotionally. For more on this topic, The Newcomer has an article on how to make healthy food choices.

4. Sleep well

Sleep allows more blood to reach the muscles, which helps your body recover from stress. To sleep better, you can create a sleep schedule and avoid electronics, alcohol, or caffeine close to your bedtime.


5. Get some sunlight and fresh air outside

Nature has a positive effect on mental health and reduces stress. Spending time outdoors can lower levels of the stress hormones: cortisol and adrenaline.

6. Meditate or pray

Meditation is a way of focusing your thoughts and attention to relax your mind and body. You can meditate by finding a quiet space, getting comfortable, closing your eyes, and focusing on a single word, phrase, object, or your breath. Prayer can also help you relieve stress by strengthening your faith, recognizing your blessings, and giving you a sense of emotional support.


7. Speak to supportive family members or friends

Supportive family members and friends can talk you through difficult issues, provide feedback or advice, or just be a listening ear if you need a venting session. Speaking to them can help you understand your thoughts, feelings, and emotions in a healthy way to reduce stress.

Resources in Canada

If you seek further help (counselling, therapy, etc.) from mental health professionals, you can also contact a therapist, psychiatrist, or psychologist in Canada. Below are links to Canadian resources for programs and professional support for stress.

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