Did you know that April is Stress Awareness month? According to the Mental Health Foundation 74% of UK adults felt so stressed at some point over the last year they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope. These levels of stress are damaging to our health, both mental and physical.
While it might feel like we get bombarded by messages that we need to find ways of managing and mitigating our stress, how many of us actually pay attention? It’s just one more thing to worry about in a world full of competing demands for our time and attention.
Stress is a significant factor in the development of mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. I’ve written several articles before about the effects of stress on our physical health. Unmanaged and chronic levels of stress lead to an increased risk of diabetes, heart problems and autoimmune conditions. Ongoing high levels of stress make us isolate ourselves from our friends and family, sleep poorly and digest our food badly, yet many of us still don’t consider it to be a ‘serious problem’.
For many of us, it’s not until we become ill that we stop and take stock; the sources of stress and triggers of illness will be different for everyone. For the sake of our future, for our health and ongoing wellbeing as individuals we need to understand what is causing us personal stress and learn what steps we can take to reduce it for ourselves and those around us.
How to deal with stress.
So let’s take the opportunity to open up about the stresses we face. By starting conversations, we reduce the stigma and shatter the myth that we are supposed to be able to magically handle everything that life throws at us. These conversations don’t need to be negative – if something has worked helped you to reduce your stress there’s a good chance that other people will also find it useful.
We all need to think more about self-care and care-for-others. Take the time out of your day to do something that you enjoy, make sure that you’re eating well and exercising regularly, even when you really don’t feel like it. Meditation really does work, but it’s not something that everyone manages to stick to. The trick is to find self-care that actually suits you and your life style. When we recognise that others may be feeling the effects of stress and take the time to connect meaningfully with them both parties benefit.
Recognise that stress and anxiety is something that we all experience and that there are helpful and less helpful ways of dealing with these emotions. There are techniques you can learn and practises that you can do to help you reduce your stress levels and manage your anxieties. If you’d like to talk to me about this further, I’d love to help you.