Stress Awareness Month
This blog is your one stop guide to what stress awareness month is, the causes and ways to manage to stress and how you can get involved in this 30- day challenge!
What is Stress Awareness Month?
Stress Awareness Month, celebrated through the whole month of April, aims to increase the awareness of the causes of stress and how to help combat stress. Stress can affect an individual at any age, so it is essentially people are educated on how stress starts, the signs of somebody who is experiencing stress, as well as what help, and support is available out there.
Stress is one of the biggest public health challenges the NHS faces, in particularly due to modern day life as well as COVID19. Although more funding has been provided to help with the treatment and support services available for stress and stress- related diseases, it is believed more needs to be done as it can be damaging for our health. This is because stress can contribute towards other mental health diagnosis’s such as anxiety and depression and physical diseases such as heart disease. This is why we all need to know what the causes of stress are as well as what steps we can take to reduce stress in our lives and other people’s lives around us.
The month of April involves raising as much awareness as possible of stress. Each year there is a theme and the theme for 2021 is Regaining Connectivity, Certainty and Control.
This theme has been chosen in relation to COVID as uncertainty, disconnection and loss of control are the three main factors that have increased the stress of individuals since March 2020.
The 30- day challenge in April involves picking one action to improve your mental, physical and emotional wellbeing to carry out each day. You are encouraged to do these actions each day for 30 days so that these actions turn into habits and will be incorporated into day-to-day life.
You can download a 30- day challenge calendar below to help track your progress: https://www.stress.org.uk/30daychallenge/
What is stress?
Stress is defined medically by the Mental Health Foundation as a situation whereby an individual feels unable to cope, due to pressures that are unmanageable.
These situations can vary from work related stress such as exam stress or stress of completing tasks for work within a time frame to family related stress or financial stress.
How does stress affect us?
74% of adults in the UK have reported that they have felt stress and feelings associated with being unable to cope or being overwhelmed in the last 12 months. More recent figures show that 65% of people have felt more stressed as a result of COVID19.
Stress is something that can come and go within a person’s life or can remain for a long period of time. The one thing to remember is that stress is normal! It relates to the fight or flight response in the body, whereby when you experience a change or challenge (stressor), your body then produces physical and mental responses to this, which is stress.
Stress can be caused by being under pressure, worry about something/ future and facing a big change for example.
In some ways, low levels of stress are considered beneficial as they can lead to keeping an individual more motivated and alert and ready to avoid danger.
Mental signs can include sadness, worry, irritability and even anxiety and depression.
Physical signs can include a racing heart rate, chest pain, headaches, shakiness and pains around the body.
Behaviours may include finding it hard to concentrate, being snappy towards people, biting your nails and being unable to sleep at night.
(All taken from Mind UK)
How can you help manage stress?
Mind UK and the NHS provide several ways you can help manage stress in day-to-day life. These include:
- Identifying what makes you stressed
- Organising your time (setting SMART objectives!)
- Addressing some of the causes
- Healthy diet (but don’t forget that bit of choccie)
- Keeping hydrated
- Have some ‘me time’
- Adequate sleep – 8hr
- Accepting sometimes that things cannot change so that we need to help focus our time and energy more productively on the things we can!
For more information visit: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/stress/dealing-with-pressure/
There is a saying a problem shared is a problem halved. Why not talk to a trusted family member or friend. Sometimes opening up and talking about how you feel can be a massive help.
There are also some support resources such as:
- Mind UK - https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/helplines/
- Coventry University Counselling and Mental Health Service - https://www.coventry.ac.uk/study-at-coventry/student-support/health-and-wellbeing/counselling-and-mental-health-service/
- Your GP – contact them to get an appointment
How to get involved in Stress Awareness Month?
As explained above, there is a 30-day challenge you can get involved with. Print your calendar and start improving your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing! These should develop into habits that you will incorporate into life after April, with positive outcomes for you.
The other things you could do to help raise awareness of stress is:
- Share your story on socials of a time when you felt stress and how you dealt with it and what mechanisms you use day-to-day to help manage your stress. This will help raise awareness and normalise how common stress is.
- Be more aware of the stress others may face. This may be due to exams, money or COVID. Be more conscious and ask how people are. Sometimes that message to an old friend asking how they are can make such a difference to them! If they open up, be there for them with empathy and compassion.
- Look after yourself! Let this month be the start of treating yourself and looking after yourself. This could be eating a bit healthier (eating some cake when you feel like it) or going for a walk and getting an ice cream. Do whatever makes you happy and relaxed each day!
Take this month to start carrying out new actions to reduce and manage your stress and let these turn into habits that you will continue doing in the long run. – Milena
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