The most likely response you will receive upon asking someone how they are is ‘I’m fine thanks’. Sometimes this is true, but quite often it is not. Probe a little deeper and you may well be given the response ‘I’m just a bit stressed’.
So, what does that mean? We use the word stress in relation to a multitude of different aspects of our life; stress at work, stress in a relationship, stress about money or stress about exams – the list goes on. We live in a stressful world with no end of sources creating pressure and demands on us.
Yet how seriously do we as individuals, and society as a whole, take stress? Stress actually has significant impact on both physical and mental health and whilst a certain degree of stress can help motivate and drive us, an excess can be hugely detrimental to our wellbeing. The Stress Management Society uses the following analogy:
“When a bridge is carrying too much weight, it will eventually collapse. It is possible to see the warning signs before this happens, the bridge will bow, buckle and creak. The same principle can be applied to human beings, with excessive demands and challenges placed on our bridges. There may be early warning signs. However, stress can creep up on some of us, resulting in an unexpected breakdown.”
Stress will affect each of us in a very individual way, but there are some common signs to look out for. There will be changes in the person of a physical, behavioural and/or emotional nature which may include indecision, poor concentration, irritability, anxiety, lack of humour and changes to sleep pattern. Physical signs can include rapid heartbeat, frequent colds and indigestion and over a long-term period, stress can contribute to conditions such as high blood pressure, irritable bowel syndrome and ulcers.
There are steps that we can all take to help reduce our stress levels:
- Get a good night sleep – try to get enough hours sleep at night to ensure you feel rested and fresh in the morning. It’s better to start a day that may have pressures with a mind and body that have had adequate rest.
- Be assertive – learn to say no rather than taking on an excess of responsibilities that you realistically will not be able to complete. You will feel much more accomplished by ticking five out of five things off your to-do list than five out of twenty!
- Drink enough water – it is extremely important not to become dehydrated, and this is even more likely to happen if you are rushing around, feeling under pressure. The NHS Eatwell Guide advises that we consume between 6 and 8 glasses of fluid each day in order to maintain good health and stay hydrated.
- Make time for exercise – whatever your choice of exercise may be; a trip to the gym, walking to dog or going for a bike ride – making sure you spend some time exercising takes you away from the sources of stress, gives a different focus and gets the body releasing positive endorphins.
- Start a conversation – talk to someone about how you are feeling. Whether it’s a trusted family member, friend, work colleague or healthcare professional, letting someone know how you are feeling and the effect that is having on you is a first step in making things better.
It’s not always possible to remove or change the stresses in your life straight away, but it is important to make a start in tackling the issue. You can access support and advice through your GP or psychological therapy service, as well as organisations such as the Samaritans or other established charities.
If you would like information and details of the services and support available in your area to help you deal with stress, call us on 0300 500 1895 or email [email protected]
We look forward to hearing from you.
Information & Signposting Lead