At the moment, millions of us are experiencing high levels of stress. According to the Mental Health Foundation, 74% of UK adults have felt so stressed at some point over the last year, they were unable to cope.
April is National Stress Awareness Month. Its aim is to increase public awareness about both the causes and cures of stress. It’s a great opportunity to take a moment to think about your wellbeing. It’s also the perfect time to consider why you’re stressed and if there are ways to help the situation.
What is stress?
Stress is the body’s response to change. It was a survival strategy to keep us safe. Humans evolved with stress when we sensed danger. Stress shuts down unnecessary functions and hormones to give all the power to the body’s muscles. It’s a fight or flight response.
We all know what it’s like to feel stressed. Being under pressure is a guaranteed part of life. Many people trigger this stress response daily. But becoming overwhelmed by stress can be very damaging to our health.
What does stress do to us?
Stress isn’t taken as seriously as physical health conditions, but it shouldn’t be underestimated. Chronic stress increases our risk of addictive and destructive behaviour.
When stress becomes a part of your life, the prefrontal cortex begins to shut down. The prefrontal cortex regulates enables us to learn, play, concentrate and make judgements. You could develop anxiety, depression and other mental health problems. It is also linked to the increase of physical health problems such as heart disease, problems with the immune system, insomnia, muscle pain and digestive problems.
How can I reduce stress?
Talk about the effects of stress
Reduce the stigma associated with stress and open up. Get people talking about their own experiences and how it has affected them. It’s a great chance to get to understand them. It may also offer the opportunity to help improve your/their stress levels.
Be nice to those who are stressed
Treat others with compassion and empathy. Treat them exactly how you would want to be treated in the same situation. Too often people dismiss stress and don’t process the emotion. If you know someone may be stressed, double-check they’re ok and offer help and support.
Share your coping mechanisms
If you’ve found a strategy that helped you share it with others. Someone may be suffering from stress and your words of wisdom may be their saviour.
Look after yourself
It’s all about self-care. Take time out of your day to relax or do something you enjoy. Spend some quality time with yourself and try to forget about your worries for a while. Make sure to exercise and eat well!
You can find advice and support about managing stress through these helpful resources:
Does your workplace offer a stress-free zone?
In order to maintain wellbeing, you need to notice what is making your stressed and learn how to deal with it. This is particularly important while at work. You spend around 8 hours a day, 5 days a week at your workplace - it’s a huge part of your life. Your workload or working relationships can be very strenuous on your mental health.
Staff should be able to have a safe space to share their thoughts and feelings or find out how to deal with stress. There may also be a space where you can support another colleague who’s stressed. It can make a huge difference by sharing how you feel with someone.