New research from the Mental Health Foundation states that 74% of UK adults in the past year have felt overwhelmed or unable to cope as a result of stress.

Stress Awareness Month has been running every April to increase awareness and knowledge about stress and how it impacts many on a daily basis.

This year, the theme for Stress Awareness Month (2021) is ‘Regaining Connectivity, Certainty and Control’.

The on-going COVID-19 pandemic has brought extra challenges and uncertainty to people’s lives. This has resulted in an increase in stress factors and stress levels.

A little stress is beneficial, even necessary. We function well with a little incentive. But high levels of stress, and multiple stressors, can result in lowered wellbeing. And this lowered wellbeing leads to illness, poor mental health, and time off due to burnout.

 

So, what is stress?

Stress is the body’s natural response to pressure. This response can produce physical and emotional responses, and can be caused by a host of different situations or life events. Even positive life changes such as a promotion, purchasing a new house, or the birth of a child can produce stress.

Some common symptoms of stress include (but are not limited to):

  • Lack of concentration or focus
  • Increased reliance on unhealthy coping habits such as alcohol, smoking and caffeine
  • Aggressive outbursts or becoming short-tempered with others
  • Heart palpitations or shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Panic attacks
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue and low mood

What can I do during Stress Awareness Month?

  • Talk to others—by discussing stress and our feelings about it, we open the door for conversations that break the stigma.
  • Focus on what helps you—It can be helpful to talk about what helps you—your own personal coping mechanisms. These may even help and provide support to those around you.
  • Be supportive—supportive and compassionate relationships start with ourselves and radiates out towards others. Approach your own feelings and experience with compassion and care. It is natural to experience stress. It is part of being human.
  • Learn to say ‘no’—although it can be tempting, saying ‘yes’ to everything can leave you feeling overwhelmed and ultimately, exhausted. If you do feel that you may have taken on too much, speak with a colleague, manager, partner or friend about what can be set aside or create a plan to tackle the commitments which you currently have. Generally, people like to help and will be there to support you with your workload or tasks. Afterall, not everything is a priority, and some things can (and will) have to wait.
  • Take care of yourself—during stressful times, it can be all too easy to forget to prioritise self-care at the times where it is more important than ever. If you do not have time or cannot schedule in self-care, start with your diet by eating more fruit and veg, drinking more water, and going for a daily walk.
  • Give yourself a break—breathing techniques can help support you when worrying about the future and help to focus on the present.