Wednesday 3rd November 2021 is National Stress Awareness Day.
Stress is not always a negative thing. When experienced at a mild level, stress can assist us with many situations – for example, it can provide motivation when deadlines need to be met and can be helpful in allowing us to react in dangerous situations.
In particular circumstances, the stress response can be useful in getting us through pressurised events such as public speaking, where stress levels return to baseline once the event is over. Research has found that moderate, short-lived stress can improve alertness, performance, and memory.
However, if someone is experiencing too much stress, this can be a problem. Experiencing stress for prolonged periods of time can be overwhelming, cause burnout and can cause or worsen mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. There are also a number of health conditions related to stress, including heart disease and diabetes.
This year, November 3rd is National Stress Awareness Day. This day is recognised annually on the first Wednesday in November. In 2018, The Mental Health Foundation found that 74% of adults in the UK had felt so stressed in the past year that they felt unable to cope. A survey conducted in 2020 found that 79% of respondents frequently experienced work stress. These statistics demonstrate that stress is still a prevalent concern which needs to be taken seriously and managed.
Some effective ways to manage stress include:
- Talking about your feelings
Whether this be to a friend, family member or a therapist, ventilating your feelings and having the chance to discuss what is causing your stress can be cathartic and may also enable you to see the situation in a new light.
- Relaxation techniques
Using relaxation methods such as breathing techniques and mindfulness meditation can be a great way to destress. The 4-7-8 breathing technique involves inhaling through the nose for four seconds, holding the breath for seven seconds and exhaling through the mouth for eight seconds – deep breathing has a calming effect on the body. Mindfulness meditation can help you to accept and focus on the present moment.
Exercise increases blood flow and causes the reduction in the stress hormone cortisol. It also increases the release of endorphins which are feel-good neurotransmitters – the ‘runner’s high’ is due to increased endorphin levels. In addition to this, exercise can act as a distraction and provide something to channel your energy into.
- Gratitude journaling
Keeping a diary of the things in your life that you appreciate can increase happiness and reduce stress. Recognising the positives in your life can also sometimes help to put the stressful or negative experiences into perspective. Why not take the time to write at least one entry a week? Write about the people in your life that you are grateful for and the things that make you happy.
- Make time for yourself
Try setting aside some time for yourself daily – whether this is taking 10 minutes to have a bubble bath, or half an hour watching your favourite show with a cup of tea. Making time for things that you enjoy puts you in a better position to cope with the things that you find stressful. It also gives you something to look forward to.
- Take breaks
Particularly if your stress is work related, ensuring that you take short breaks from your work and step outside for your lunch break can be helpful and give you some time to reset. Be realistic with the deadlines you set yourself and talk to your manager if you feel that your workload is too much.
Thanks to Abie, our Manchester Practitioner, for this blog contribution.