Most of us will experience stress in our lives, whether it is related to work, relationships, finances or something else entirely. Some stress can be healthy and motivating, however in some cases, managing stress s can prove difficult. When symptoms are left to become overwhelming, stress can become detrimental to health and lead to conditions such as anxiety.
April this year will mark Stress Awareness Month. Running since 1992, Stress Awareness Month brings communities together to talk about the causes and effects of stress and how to seek support. In this blog, we’ll discuss what Stress Awareness Month involves, as well as 7 useful tips you can use to help manage your stress symptoms.
This source tells us that over 70% of UK adults have experienced stress at some point over the past year. The Covid-19 pandemic, increased cost of living, world conflicts as well as our own individual challenges could have all contributed to heightened levels of stress. Stress Awareness Month aims to increase public awareness of stress, its possible benefits and also the difficulties some people face when they experience excessive stress. Communities are encouraged to share their experiences and speak out about effective coping mechanisms that have helped them manage their stress, whether they have had professional support or simply shared with others. Stress Awareness Month also gives people who struggle with their stress an opportunity to support one another and feel heard.
It’s important to differentiate stress from anxiety and other mental health conditions. As previously mentioned, stress has its benefits, but when it begins to have a serious impact on our lives, it can become a health concern. During Stress Awareness Month, individuals are encouraged to assess their own experiences with stress and whether these are positive or negative – and if negative, to seek support from experts.
Stress is triggered by our innate fight-or-flight response, alerting us to situations we should be cautious about. For some, this can feel motivating, but others can find certain stressful situations overwhelming. Reducing stress isn’t always easy, but there are a number of things you can try in your spare time that can make you feel more relaxed and improve stress management. Try these techniques and see whether you can make a difference to how you are experiencing stress.
Excessive screen time can often cause us to become overly exposed to negativity online, and this can have a significant impact on stress levels. The blue lights caused by screens can also cause eye strain, leading to headaches and once again, difficulty sleeping, if not monitored. Try to stay away from your phone, laptop and TV for at least an hour before bedtime to help with this.
Being out in the fresh air can help your stress levels more than you might think. Regular exercising is a great routine to work up to, but even lower level activity such as a short walk can boost your mood by releasing endorphins. These are neurotransmitters, or chemicals, that send signals to the brain to alleviate pain and promote feelings of pleasure.
A lot of people become stressed by having too much on their plate and becoming overwhelmed. Try to avoid this in the future by setting boundaries for yourself. At work, this might involve planning out your time and learning to turn down requests for certain tasks. In your home life, you may plan a social outing just a couple of times a week rather than every night, or just make sure you have an evening to yourself once in a while.
Mindfulness is the practice of refocusing your attention and bringing it to the present moment through various grounding techniques. Regular mindfulness practice is a great way to relieve stress, and it is completely adaptable to your routine. You may prefer to find just 5 minutes to sit and refocus your attention to the present moment rather than over analysing your thoughts, or you may find an hour-long meditation works better for you. There are plenty of useful videos and other resources online to help you learn how to practise mindfulness in a way that is beneficial to you and helps with your stress.
Maintaining social contact is important for all of us, and spending time with people you love can help to release endorphins, or ‘happy hormones’, as previously mentioned. Having quality social time can also take away other feelings such as loneliness and depression. If you feel you cannot reach out to friends and family, there are plenty of support groups you can try, both in person and online which may help you. You could also try joining a new club, such as sports or crafts, and make some new connections there.
Your diet affects every aspect of your health, and this includes your mental health. If you are feeling stressed, drinking plenty of fluids and eating a balanced diet will likely make a positive impact. Healthy foods contain nutrients, vitamins and minerals that are essential when it comes to regulating your mood. Eating foods rich in fats and sugars will likely lead to a deficiency in these vital nutrients. Your body will then react differently, causing you to experience stress in a more negative way. Try to incorporate more colour into your diet, with fresh fruits and vegetables. Avoiding caffeine can also help to reduce stress as it can sometimes overstimulate your central nervous system.
Many people who experience stress believe it is just a part of everyday life, and that support isn’t necessary. However, just because stress is experienced by all of us, this doesn’t mean it is not seriously impacting your life. Contact mental health experts if you need help managing your stress. They may recommend taking medication or engaging in therapy to help you manage better.
We are all familiar with stress, but how do you know whether what you’re dealing with is common or a health concern? If you are noticing stress having an impact on your work, personal life or relationships, we recommend speaking to a professional to help diagnose you and identify the root causes of your stress. As Stress Awareness Week aims to show, help is always available to those struggling with stress.
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