#MentalHealthAwarenessWeek – How You Can Cope
Mental Health Awareness Week is set up by the Mental Health Foundation, and runs from the 14th to the 20th of May; and this years’ Mental Health Awareness Week is focused on stress.
While stress in itself isn’t a mental health problem, it can sometimes lead to such. Chronic stress can sometimes lead to depression, anxiety, self-harm and in severe cases, suicide. This can even come alongside physical health problems, such as cardiovascular disease, and joint and muscle problems . Despite the serious health repercussions, just under three-quarters of people have felt so stressed at some point that they have been unable to cope , and only 14% of people said they feel they could talk to their manager about stress .
So, what is stress? At its most basic level, stress is the body’s response to a strain or pressure from a situation or event. What counts as stress will vary hugely from person to person, and can differ depending on genetic makeup and physiology.
There may be many causes of stress in a person’s life, some may even be positive events, such as having a child or getting married. Some causes of stress may be; long-term health conditions, a high workload or low control over workload, financial concerns, social media, or even wider uncontrollable factors, such as natural disasters.
Sometimes it might not be possible to change the cause of the stress, but there are ways to help deal with it. Take a look at the Mental Health Foundation’s top ten ways to cope with stress.
- Realise when it is stress. Warning signs may be feeling tired or ill, or even physical warnings such as tense muscles, headaches or migraines. Sometimes a small amount of stress can help people work, but it’s important to realise when it’s too much for you. Once you’ve identified when it is too much stress, figure out what the cause is, and how you can reduce it.
- Review your lifestyle. Are you offering too much of your time to others? Do you feel a pressure to say ‘yes’ all the time? Are you taking on too much? Sometimes, it’s not selfish to put you and your wellbeing first. Prioritise what is essential for you in your life.
- Focus on positive relationships. Talk to family and friends about your stress, they might be going through the same thing or even be able to help. You can also network through groups online, or within your local community to build relationships with people going through similar problems, that can help you cope.
- Focus on a healthy diet. A healthy diet can help relieve symptoms of stress, and sometimes even help with the causes. A balanced diet filled with nutritious food can help to improve mood.
- Be aware of false cures. Whilst smoking, drinking, or a quick caffeine fix may feel as if they help the problem, they can actually make it worse long term. Alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine have been known to increase feelings of anxiety.
- Exercise. Physical exercise, and getting your heart rate pumping is a great way to manage the effects of stress. Even 15-20 minutes of light walking can improve mood. If stress is the cause of lack of money or time, exercise can be done from home, and in short bursts, i.e on a lunch break.
- Take time out. It may seem hard to take time off now, but it will be harder if you’re forced to due to stress-related illness. Find the best way for you to relax, and make sure you incorporate this into your weekly routine. Striking a balance between responsibility and time to yourself is vital in reducing stress levels.
- Be mindful. Mindfulness can be practiced anywhere, at any time. Research suggests that mindfulness can help in managing and reducing the effect of stress and anxiety.
- Ensure you’re getting enough sleep. Lack of sleep can be a common symptom of stress, and sometimes even a cause. Adults need around 7-9 hours of sleep each night, so make sure you know what time to hit the hay before your alarm goes off in the morning. Writing down a to-do list for the next day can help to get stress off your mind and aid in a restful nights sleep.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s easy to get caught up with social media expectations, work deadlines and pressures from friends and family, but try to keep things in perspective. Make time to appreciate the positives in your life, and think about things that make you feel grateful.
Will you be using any of the above techniques? Do you have your own ways of coping with stress? Tweet us and let us know!
You can get involved in MHAW here.
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