Stress Awareness Month 2022
Since April 1992 Stress Awareness Month has been held to help increase public awareness about both the causes and cures for Stress.
What is Stress?
The Health & Safety Executive define stress as the following
‘the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them’
Stress is your body’s response to pressure. There may be many different situations both in work or in our family life of events that could contribute and cause stress.
Stress in our lives can actually be very useful and we often need and rely on this to get things done.
This is called Eustress.
This positive form of stress has a beneficial effect on health, motivation, performance, and emotional well-being. Eustress motivates us, sharpens our senses, and helps us problem solve successfully. Good stress actually creates new neural pathways and stimulates healthful endorphins and these trigger a positive feeling in the body.
Examples of positive eustress include;
- Being promoted at work or working to achieve something in your personal life
- Going on a roller coaster, rock climbing or participating in something out of your comfort zone
- Developing new skills such as learning a new language
- Studying for a new qualification
Eustress helps us stay motivated, work toward goals, and feel good about life
Unlike eustress, too much stress can make you feel overwhelmed because your resources (physically, emotionally, cognitive, behavioural) are inadequate to meet the demands you’re facing.
Many things will make us feel stressed such as;
- divorce or separation
- losing a job
- unexpected money problems
- lack of control over the outcome of a situation
- having responsibilities that you find overwhelming
- feeling under lots of pressure for extended periods
Signs of Stress
Physical Symptoms include;
- Low energy
- Aches, pains, and tense muscles
- Chest pain and rapid heartbeat
- High blood pressure
- Upset stomach, including diarrhoea, constipation, and nausea
- Frequent colds and infections
- Erectile dysfunction
Emotional symptoms include;
- Becoming easily agitated, frustrated, and moody
- Feeling overwhelmed, or unmotivated
- Lack of concentration
- Feeling bad about yourself (low self-esteem), and feeling lonely, worthless, and depressed
- Avoiding others
Cognitive symptoms of stress include:
- Constant worrying
- Racing thoughts
- Forgetfulness and disorganisation
- Inability to focus
- Making poor judgments or finding it hard to make a decision
- Being pessimistic or seeing only the negative side
Behavioural symptoms of stress include:
- Changes in appetite — either not eating too much or not enough
- Increased or new use of use of alcohol, drugs, or cigarettes
- Developing nervous behaviour, such as nail biting, fidgeting, and pacing
- Avoiding responsibilities and procrastinating
The consequences of long term stress
Stress is not normally considered a mental health problem. But it is connected to our mental health. People who experience lots of stress could develop a mental health problem like depression or anxiety. A traumatic period of stress may lead to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Simple ways to relieve stress
Exercise – many studies have shown that physical exercise reduces stress levels and improves mood
Healthy habits – reduce alcohol intake or cut out altogether, eat a healthy well balanced diet
Phone use and screen time – Spending too much time in front of screens in general is associated with lower psychological well-being and increased stress levels in both adults and children. Decrease the amount of time engaging with these.
Friends and Family – Make time available to spend with friends and family and don’t be tempted to isolate yourself. Should you feel alone and not have a friends or family then consider social support circles and joining clubs that interest you and where you can make new friends
Self Care – This is about taking time for you. Examples could include reading a book, going to the gym, cooking, enjoying a hobby, going for a walk, getting good quality sleep and seeking professional help if needed. Self-care requires checking in with yourself and being honest. Ask yourself how you’re doing and what your body’s asking for.
Assert yourself. It’s okay to say “No” to demands on your time and energy that will place too much stress on you. You don’t have to always meet the needs and expectations of others.
Set realistic goals and expectations. Be mindful of things that you can and can’t control and realise that you cannot be 100% successful at everything but you can try and do your best.
Employers also need to risk assess and control stress in the workplace
There are six main areas of work design which can effect stress levels. These should be managed properly. They are:
Employees may become stressed because they;
- are not able to cope with the demands of their jobs
- are unable to control the way they do their work
- don’t receive enough information and support
- are having trouble with relationships at work, or are being bullied
- don’t fully understand their role and responsibilities
- are not engaged when a business is undergoing change
Stress affects people differently – what stresses one person may not affect another. Factors like skills and experience, age or disability may all affect whether a worker can cope.