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.
While we are all living in these uncertain times, with dramatic changes to our usual habits and routines, the chances of stress taking hold are greatly increased.
Pandemics such as Coronavirus, can be scary, having a negative effect on our mental health. At times of stress, it’s vital to have access to a strong support network. This can be difficult, given the current lockdown, but there are avenues available to you. Utilise online tools, like social media and email, or make video or telephone calls to keep yourself connected with your friends and family. 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.
It will help to try and see it as a different period of time in your life, and not necessarily a bad one, even if you didn’t choose it.
For many, the uncertainty surrounding Coronavirus is the hardest thing to handle. But there are lots of things you can do to try in order to manage your stress and help you remember that this situation is not permanent and will pass.
Top tips for managing stress during these times
- Keep active - get out for your 1 hour of exercise a day 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 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 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 - now is a great time to get out that jigsaw puzzle you’ve been meaning to start, to dig out the old easel and canvas and start painting, to get stuck into that book you’ve been meaning to read, or to reorganise your cupboard space
- Help others - helping somebody else can be a benefit to the both of you. Maybe call somebody who is isolating alone or help a neighbour who can’t get out 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 bed, 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…
We know that these uncertain times can be frightening and the changes to our usual routines can be stressful, but 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.
- MentalHealth.org - Looking after your mental health during the Coronavirus outbreak
- Samaritans - If you're worried about your mental health during the coronavirus outbreak