April is Stress Awareness Month

Stress Awareness Month takes place every April and has since it first launched in 1992. Throughout this period of time, teams of experts aim to increase public awareness about stress. This includes highlighting the causes of stress, the negative effects stress can have on the mind and body, and how to relieve stress.

In the run up to the Easter break, you may have been thinking “I need a holiday…” as you might have felt tired in the run up to the holiday, wanting to get as many tasks finished before your break and juggling personal tasks etc which may have felt a bit stressful.

Feeling stressed is something we might comment on from time to time if we’re under pressure, ‘have a lot on our plate’ or are coping with a big life change – but what is stress?

Stress causes physical changes in the body designed to help you take on threats or difficulties.

You may notice that your heart pounds, your breathing quickens, your muscles tense, and you start to sweat. This is sometimes known as the fight or flight response.

Once the threat or difficulty passes, these physical effects usually fade. But if you're constantly stressed, your body stays in a state of high alert and you may develop stress-related symptoms – such as:

  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Being irritable and "wound up"
  • Feeling anxious
  • Have difficulty concentrating 
  • Have difficulty making decisions
  • Headaches
  • muscle tension or pain
  • sleep problems
  • feeling tired all the time 
  • How you may behave
  • drinking or smoking more
  • eating too much or too little
  • snapping at people
  • avoiding things or people you are having problems with

There are strategies however for helping you deal with periods of stress, for example:

  • Be active - exercise won't make your stress disappear, but it will reduce some of the emotional intensity that you're feeling, clearing your thoughts and letting you to deal with your problems more calmly.
  • Take control - there's a solution to any problem. "If you remain passive, thinking, 'I can't do anything about my problem', your stress will get worse. The act of taking control is in itself empowering, and it's a crucial part of finding a solution that satisfies you and not someone else.
  • Connect with people - a good support network of colleagues, friends and family can ease your work troubles and help you see things in a different way. The activities we do with friends help us relax. We often have a good laugh with them, which is an excellent stress reliever.
  • Have some 'me time' and spend time doing the things you enjoy.
  • Challenge yourself, focus on something different and keep your mind active – learn a language, take up a new hobby / sport or volunteer – helping people has a positive impact on mental wellbeing.

Useful links for more information and ways to help:

Employee Assistance Programme, Time for Talking

Corporate Training Timetable has courses such as building personal resilience and time management

How to deal with stress NHS

NHS moodzone

Mind (Mental Health Charity)

NB: These are a sample of available resources and websites for self-help, but not an exhaustive list.  If you are concerned about feeling stressed or any aspect of your mental health you should seek help from a medical professional.

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