Stress awareness month has been held every April since 1992, helping to increase public awareness about our modern stress epidemic. Over 30 days, we are asking people to look more closely at the stress levels of their colleagues, their workforce and themselves.
Before we can address stress-levels we must ask what is stress and how can stress affect us.
What is stress?
Stress is something we’ve all experienced, and we’ve all had our fair share of stressful situations. The NHS states stress can affect our mood, our body and our relationships and experiencing it over long periods of time can lead to exhaustion, often called a burnout.
Stress can be helpful, it motivates us to perform and achieve. However stress can also be destructive and leave us feeling helpless. It also seems to disproportionately affect younger people. In a 2018 Mental Health Foundation Study, 30% of older people reported never feeling overwhelmed compared to 7% of young adults.
The symptoms of stress?
Spotting the signs of stress and becoming overwhelmed is the first step to preventing a burnout. Fatigue and impatience at work can be dangerous, so knowing the symptoms of excessive stress levels is important.
Symptoms can be emotional, physical and behavioural:
- Having difficulty relaxing or concentrating
- Avoiding others
- Upset stomach and chest pains
- Acne and hair loss
- Grinding teeth
- Poor judgement
- Changes in appetite
- Exhibiting nervous behaviours, such as fidgeting, pacing or nail-biting.
The consequences of long-term stress can be permanent and life changing. They include eating disorders, cardiovascular disease and sexual dysfunction.
This is why managing our stress levels is crucial; stress is a part of life and what matters most is how you handle it. If you or someone you know is struggling, remember there is help available.
The best ways to manage stress
There are a plethora of ways to manage stress and each individual will find the way that suits them best. Some find saying a mantra or doing a certain stretch useful, and remembering to do these at least once a day can make a world of change. Taking the time out of your schedule to let out pent-up stress not only reduces the likelihood of symptomatic stress, but also gives a boost to your wellbeing. Try out each of these methods over the course of April and see which one suits you and your schedule. Recommend them to your colleagues and workmates to help them reduce their stress levels.
- Exercise – A method everyone should be aware of. Exercising regularly offers a range of benefits to the physical and mental state. Intense exercise is great for letting out pent-up emotions. Use a fitness goal to keep motivated. Organising group walks or communal runs at work is a great social activity for the workplace.
- Deep breathing – Stopping what you are doing and taking a few deep breaths is a great way to ease pressure. Doing this for five minutes a time will leave you and your colleagues feeling refreshed.
- Meditation – Meditation can involve yoga, tai chi, prayer or listening to your favourite music. Find a quite space or somewhere within nature to do this for maximum effect.
- Time for a hobby – Setting aside time to do things you enjoy is important. Even 15 minutes per day will do. These non-intensive actions could include reading, knitting, art projects, watching a movie or doing puzzles.
- Talking – Discussing your problems might not always be stress-relieving, yet in most cases it is found to be helpful. Talking to family, friends, doctors or a therapist should help quieten your mind.
- Personal mantras – For example “I can do this,” or “I’m doing well.” Or maybe longer mantras which can be good to recite at the start of your day.
- Plan it out – Write down your largest causes of stress, then try to reduce them or eliminate them from your life.
We Are Wellbeing’s message this Stress Awareness month is to try to challenge yourself over these 30 days to try each of these stress management methods.