It’s April, and that means it’s Stress Awareness Month. In fact, every April since 1992 has been Stress Awareness Month; a time designed to raise awareness of stress including its causes, the detrimental effects it has on our physical and mental health, and the ways in which we can help reduce the levels of stress we all experience.
74% of UK adults have felt so stressed at some point over the last year they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope.
While we experience stress in all aspects of our lives, work is often one of the most common causes. We may feel stressed when we can’t cope with pressure, feel “out of our depth” or “under-trained”, have tight deadlines, or aren’t getting along with colleagues or managers, amongst many other things. It’s important to remember that stress can affect one person differently from another person. Everyone is unique and handles stress in their own way.
Signs of stress
As the above video states, there are three key changes to look out for when it comes to signs of stress - emotional, behavioural and physical changes.
Emotional changes include feeling worried, lonely, nervous, angry, anxious, upset or isolated, with racing thoughts or a loss of enjoyment.
Behavioural changes include changes in appetite, restlessness, withdrawing from social situations, snapping at people or finding it hard to control your emotions.
Physical changes include frequent headaches, dizziness, stomach problems, muscle tension, chest pains, tiredness, breathing difficulties or eyesight issues.
Many of these symptoms, by themselves, are not necessarily a sign of stress. However, it’s important that you’re able to recognise them because, when combined or when they’re persistent, they may well be an indicator of stress either in yourself or in somebody else.
The current climate
While the latest roadmap plans and the steps taken with vaccinations across the UK seem to be giving people a sense of returning to normality, some people are still dealing with dramatic changes in their lives such as losing loved ones, job losses, and changes to their usual routines, so there are definitely still opportunities for stress to take hold in the current climate.
Anxiety and worry due to the stress of the pandemic has declined significantly from 62% in March 2020 to 42% in late February 2021
The Coronavirus pandemic has been upsetting and challenging for many, having a negative effect on their mental health. In times of stress, it’s vital to have access to a strong support network. Even as the lockdown restrictions start to ease, there are still avenues available to those who need it. For those who feel comfortable in doing so, we are now allowed to meet friends/family in outdoor spaces and private gardens of up to 6 people (or 2 households) which is a great chance to see people you might not have for a long period of time. But equally, if you are not yet comfortable with this, you can still utilise online tools, like social media and email, or make video or telephone calls to keep yourself connected with your friends and family. And if you want to speak to someone anonymously, you could always contact a helpline for emotional support. Remember, you are never alone, we’re all in this together.
Some of the things that the Stress Management Society suggest we all do for Stress Awareness Month are;
- Talk about stress and its effects
- Share your coping mechanisms
- Be nice to those who are stressed and anxious
- Look after yourself
While the uncertainty when lockdown will end is now eased for many with the roadmap plans from the Government, there are still some that have concerns about Coronavirus and the effects it might still have on them and their loved ones lives. But there are lots of things we can all still do to try and manage our stress and help others remember that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Top tips for managing stress during these times
- Keep active - get out for your daily dose of exercise or do your own home workouts
- Eat a balanced diet - it’s easy to want to eat everything in the fridge when you’re at home, but a balanced diet of the right things is key
- Get the right information - use reputable sources to find out about Coronavirus to make sure your information is reliable e.g. the gov.uk website and the NHS provide useful tips surrounding mental health and Coronavirus
- Take a break - while it’s good to stay informed, don’t allow yourself to become obsessed or overwhelmed with the constant updates of information, find a balance that works for you
- If you are still working from home - try and set rules to maintain a work-life balance and make sure the two remain separate
- Be honest with your kids - you might find that the way your children react to the current situation causes you stress. Try to discuss the news with them, but try to avoid over-exposure to coverage of the virus
- Draw on skills (old and new) - they might be skills to help you manage previous life changes or new skills to help you manage emotions during this challenging time
- Pick up a new hobby or skill - you might have rediscovered an old hobby or skill while in lockdown or picked up a new one... you might have finally completed that 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle, dug out the old easel and canvas and painted, or finished that book you’ve wanted to read, but just because lockdown is easing - it doesn't mean you have to give up these hobbies.
- Help others - helping somebody else can be a benefit to the both of you. Maybe call somebody who is still living alone or help a neighbour who still doesn't feel comfortable going to the shops by themselves, for example. BUT, remember to do this in line with official coronavirus guidance to keep everyone safe
- Get good quality sleep - stress can affect your sleeping pattern, if you’re struggling to sleep, try changing your pre-bedtime routine - for example, limit your screen time in the lead up to bedtime, and
- Be kind to yourself - if you find yourself struggling with your mental or physical health, don’t beat yourself up, you are not alone. Speak to somebody and seek the help you need
Online Stress Awareness & Prevention Training
Even though Coronavirus restrictions are easing, the changes to our usual routines and the long-term effects of the pandemic can be stressful, even now. So, it’s important to make sure that everyone is able to understand and recognise the signs of stress.
Our IOSH Approved and CPD accredited Stress Awareness & Prevention Course takes just 30 minutes to complete online and helps users recognise and identify the signs of stress in both themselves and others. It provides users with the tools they need to reduce and prevent stress.