April is National Stress Awareness Month. A month the reduce the stigma around stress and encourage open conversations with friends, family and colleagues when feeling under pressure. This month also encourages the use of coping mechanisms to help deal with and dissipate feelings of stress.
Stress is very common and can leave us feeling very overwhelmed and unable to cope. The Mental Health Foundation found that 74% of adults in the UK felt overwhelmed or unable to cope at some point in the past year. Stress is the body’s response to a situation or life event and the effects of stress can vary hugely between person to person.
High stress levels can be damaging to both mental and physical health and can lead to problems like anxiety, depression, heart disease, problems with the immune system, insomnia and digestive problems.
By understanding what is causing personal stress, by talking about stress and taking active steps to cope and manage – we can significantly improve both our mental and physical health. This also helps to put in place mechanisms that can be used to help cope with future stressful situations.
First things first – identify when you are feeling stressed.
By recognising that you are feeling stressed it may be possible to identify the causes. It might be useful to group them into three categories:
- Those with a practical solution
- Those that will get better with time
- Those that you can’t do anything about
By doing this you can identify practical solutions to deal with stressful situations and it allows you to put in place coping mechanisms for those stresses that you are unable to change.
Ask yourself is your lifestyle causing you stress. Have you taken on too much at work? Do you need support? Is there anyone that can help you? By considering these things you may be able to speak to friends, family or work colleagues and they may be able to help or offer solutions.
Look after yourself.
When we are feeling stressed it’s easy to fall into habits of unhealthy eating. We may be inclined to smoke or drink more and may be less inclined to exercise. Research has shown that although there may be some temporary relief from feeling stressed, alcohol and smoking have both been shown to increase feelings of anxiety and stress. Exercise has also been proven to be an effective way to relieve stress, even small amounts of light physical exercise can help.
It’s important to make sure you are getting enough sleep. Lack of sleep can heighten feelings of stress and anxiety. Mind Charity has lots of great tips for getting a better nights sleep.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and eating well can be a great mood booster and can help to alleviate some of the effects of stress, as well as protecting wellbeing and improving overall health.
Don’t be afraid of self-care.
Don’t be hard on yourself. Remember that everyone experiences feelings of stress and it is completely normal. Taking some time out to do activities that you enjoy and is an important form of self-care that can help to reduce stress. Pencil in some time to relax too.
Remember it’s ok to prioritise self-care and to be kind to yourself.
For more advice and tips on how to beat stress check out NHS choices MoodZone.
If you have tried some self-help techniques and are still struggling to cope with feelings of stress, don’t be afraid to seek help and advice from a doctor. At ZoomDoc our GPs are available 24/7 to give advice on your mental health and physical well-being. Just download our app today to speak to a GP in seconds.