Stress Awareness Month has taken place every April since 1992 to increase public awareness about the modern stress epidemic in the UK.
The ongoing pandemic has caused a collective feeling of disconnection, uncertainty and loss of control which has contributed to an increase in stress levels. Reports have identified that 65% of people have felt more stressed since COVID-19 restrictions began which means that Stress Awareness Month 2021 is more important than ever.
This year, there will be a 30 Day Challenge to pick actions for your Physical, Mental and Emotional Wellbeing which you must carry out daily. These daily actions will soon turn into positive behavioural changes and habits which will continue long after the challenge has finished.
This month is also an opportunity to reduce the stigma of stress. You can help by opening up conversations with your friends, family and colleagues. Sharing your own personal experiences and effective coping mechanisms may benefit others by normalising feelings of stress and showing how it can be managed with the right tools.
What is Stress?
Everyone experiences stress from time to time and it can be a positive reaction that is extremely beneficial. For example, it makes us more alert in dangerous situations and can motivate us to achieve our goals. However, when kept in this state for long periods of time, it can be detrimental to our health and wellbeing.
Stress is a physical response to the body feeling like it is under attack, whether real or imagined, which causes it to switch to ‘fight or flight’ mode. Stressors can be any life event- big or small, positive or negative- such as a change in employment status, end of a relationship, or illness. The body’s ‘fight or flight’ response to this stimuli releases a mix of hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol to prepare the body to fight. Stress can manifest itself in a variety of ways. However, signs that your body is responding to a stressful situation can involve the following:
- Rapid breathing
- Increase in alertness
- Rise in blood pressure
- Tense muscles
- Digestive system slows down
- Immune system goes down
How does stress affect us?
Experiencing stress frequently or for long periods of time can result in physical and mental health problems. It is always best to seek help and find ways to manage negative stress if is interfering in day-to-day life. Additionally, it will prevent stress from causing serious long-term issues. These include:
- Mental health problems such as anxiety and depression
- High blood pressure and heart disease
- Problems with the immune system leading to frequent illness
- Obesity and other eating disorders
It is important to understand stressors so we can make changes to our lifestyle and reduce stress levels. Additionally, it is useful to have effective coping mechanisms and tools to manage unavoidable stress.
Ways to deal with stress
- Avoiding unhealthy habits such as drinking, smoking and caffeine to cope with stress. Instead, focus on maintaining a healthy sleep schedule and a balanced diet.
- Exercising frequently to reduce stress and clear your thoughts. Moving your body will reduce some of the emotional intensity so you can deal with your problems more calmly.
- Taking control of the problems causing you stress. Loss of control is a major contributor of stress so taking a more active role can help you feel more empowered.
- Maintaining emotionally supportive relationships with others. This can help relax you and reduce stress levels. Additionally, others can help you deal with problems from a different perspective.
- Practice activities that relax you whether this be yoga, meditation or relaxation
- Taking some time to yourself and engage in activities that help relax you. This can be yoga, meditation, having a bath or watching a favourite tv show.
- Challenging yourself by taking up hobbies or setting some new goals. This could be a goal in your work or personal life or it could be a new hobby. This will build your confidence which will help manage stress.
To Find Out More
If you feel that you are struggling to manage stress and it is intruding on your day-to-day life then please find some resources below.