National Stress Awareness Day: 6th November 2019
The first Wednesday in November each year is National Stress Awareness Day.
National Stress Awareness Day is a great opportunity to take a moment to think about our wellbeing and find advice or support on managing stress.
We all know what it’s like to feel stressed – being under pressure is a normal part of life. But becoming overwhelmed by stress can lead to mental health problems or make existing problems worse.
So, what is stress?
Stress is your body’s way of responding to any kind of demand. It can be caused by both good and bad experiences. When people feel stressed by something going on around them, their bodies react by releasing chemicals into the blood. These chemicals give people more energy and strength, which can be a good thing if their stress is caused by physical danger. But this can also be a bad thing, if their stress is in response to something emotional and there is no outlet for this extra energy and strength.
There’s no medical definition of stress, and healthcare professionals often disagree over whether stress is the cause of problems or the result of them. This can make it difficult for you to work out what causes your feelings of stress, or how to deal with them. But whatever your personal definition of stress is, it’s likely that you can learn to manage your stress better by:
- managing external pressures, so stressful situations don’t seem to happen to you quite so often
- developing your emotional resilience, so you’re better at coping with tough situations when they do happen and don’t feel quite so stressed.
Is stress a mental health problem?
Being under pressure is a normal part of life. It can help you take action, feel more energised and get results. But if you often become overwhelmed by stress, these feelings could start to be a problem for you.
Stress isn’t a psychiatric diagnosis, but it’s closely linked to your mental health in two important ways:
- Stress can cause mental health problems, and make existing problems worse. For example, if you often struggle to manage feelings of stress, you might develop a mental health problem like anxiety or depression.
- Mental health problems can cause stress. You might find coping with the day-to-day symptoms of your mental health problem, as well as potentially needing to manage medication, healthcare appointments or treatments, can become extra sources of stress.
This can start to feel like a vicious circle, and it might be hard to see where stress ends and your mental health problem begins.
(Taken from mind.org.uk )
Dealing with pressure
There are various things you can try when under pressure to alleviate symptoms, it is important to remember different things work for different people, so if you feel comfortable try some of these top tips but don’t beat yourself up if they don’t work for you, try another one instead.
Working out what triggers stress for you can help you anticipate problems and think of ways to solve them. Even if you can’t avoid these situations, being prepared can help.
Take some time to reflect on events and feelings that could be contributing to your stress (you could do this on your own or with someone you trust). You could consider:
- Issues that come up regularly, and that you worry about, for example paying a bill or attending an appointment.
- One-off events that are on your mind a lot, such as moving house or taking an exam.
- Ongoing stressful events, like being a carer or having problems at work.
You might be surprised to find out just how much you’re coping with at once. Remember that not having enough work, activities or change in your life can be just as stressful a situation as having too much to deal with.
- Identify your best time of day, and do the important tasks that need the most energy and concentration at that time. For example, you might be a morning person or an evening person.
- Make a list of things you have to do. Arrange them in order of importance, and try to focus on the most urgent first. Some people find creating a timetable useful so they can plan when they can spend time on each task. If your tasks are work related, ask a manager or colleague to help you prioritise. You may be able to push back some tasks until you’re feeling less stressed.
- Set smaller and more achievable targets. When you’re under a lot of pressure it’s easy to set yourself large targets that are often unachievable. This can make you feel more stressed and if you don’t reach them, it can make you feel disappointed and frustrated. Setting smaller more achievable goals can make you feel in more control and you can see your achievements more easily.
- Vary your activities. Balance interesting tasks with more mundane ones, and stressful tasks with those you find easier or can do more calmly.
- Try not to do too much at once. If you take on too much, you might find it harder to do any individual task well. This can make you feel like you have even more pressure on you.
- Take breaks and take things slowly. It might be difficult to do this when you’re stressed, but it can make you more productive.
- Ask someone if they can help. For example, you could ask a friend or family member to help with some of your daily tasks so that you have more time to spend completing your tasks that are causing you to feel stressed.
Although there will probably lots of things in your life that you can’t do anything about, there might still be some practical ways you could to resolve or improve some of the issues that are putting pressure on you. You might find it helpful to read more on money and mental health, wellbeing at work, supporting others, addiction and dependancy.
(Taken from mind.org.uk)
Taking steps to look after your wellbeing can help you deal with pressure, and reduce the impact that stress has on your life. This is sometimes called developing emotional resilience. Resilience is not just your ability to bounce back, but also your capacity to adapt in the face of challenging circumstances, whilst maintaining a stable mental wellbeing. Resilience isn’t a personality trait – it’s something that we can all take steps to achieve.
There are some general changes that you can make to your lifestyle that could help you feel more able to cope with pressure and stressful situations.
- Practise being straightforward and assertive in communicating with others
- Use relaxation techniques. These can be anything from taking a bath, going for a walk, reading a book or practicing mindfulness. Read more about mindfulness here.
- Develop your interests and hobbies. Finding an activity that’s completely different from the things causing you stress is a great way to get away from everyday pressures, a shared hobby is also great for meeting new people.
- Make time for your friends. Friendship is a crucial element in protecting our mental health, allowing us to talk, laugh and feel supported. Read more on the importance of friendships for good mental health here.
- Find balance in your life. You may find that one part of your life, such as your job or taking care of young children, is taking up almost all of your time and energy. Try making a decision to focus some of your energy on other parts of your life, like family, friends or hobbies. It’s not easy, but this can help spread the weight of pressures in your life, and make everything feel lighter.
Other important steps to improving resilience are similar to improving our mood and positive mental health, such as; physical activity, eating well, getting outside, talking, getting enough sleep and giving ourself a break when we need it.
Resources for stress at work
Health & Safety Executive have all the government guidelines, information and toolkits for managing stress and wellbeing at work.
How to be mentally healthy at work with MIND
10 stress busters from the NHS
Legal issues for stress at work from stress.org.uk
Mental health awareness training with Be Empowered
One in four people in the UK will suffer from a mental health issue each year and yet two-thirds have no one to speak to about their mental health, according to a poll for Time To Talk Day 2019 by Time To Change.
While it is a legal requirement to have physical first aiders in every workplace, and in many public places and events, we’re still a long way from seeing our mental health treated in the same way.
Here at Be Empowered we hope to change that by training people as mental health first aiders to be able to assist those suffering with mental ill health in the workplace, and signposting them to get the appropriate professional help for them.
Click below to find out about how you can train with us!