Mental Health Awareness Week: What Is Stress?
Look around your office, do you know if anyone is struggling?
You may think those around you – fellow colleagues or your staff – are completely fine. But mental health affects us all and problems in the workplace are actually very common.
According to mental health charity Mind, at least one in six workers are experiencing common mental health problems, including anxiety and depression.
Nowadays, there is increasing recognition of stress and mental health problems, both within the workplace and in everyday life. Currently, following Stress Awareness Month in April, we are approaching Mental Health Awareness Week, which takes place from 13-19th May.
We thought it might be helpful to focus on some positive strategies to help, in terms of stress management and resilience. Whilst being particularly useful and relevant within the workplace, these can all be used in everyday life as well.
WHAT IS STRESS?
In its purest form, stress is the body’s reaction to something it perceives as dangerous or threatening. When we feel under attack, our bodies respond by producing a mixture of hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. These prepare us for physical action by diverting blood away from our core and into our limbs. It also temporarily shuts down some less vital bodily functions such as digestion.
For immediate, short-term situations, stress can be beneficial to your health, by helping you cope with potentially serious situations.
Yet if your stress response continues, and stress levels stay elevated far longer than necessary, it can take a toll on your health.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO TACKLE STRESS?
Chronic stress can cause a variety of symptoms, contribute to many health problems (such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes, anxiety and depression) and affect your overall well-being.
Reducing stress can help prevent these harmful effects on both mind and body.
Looking after yourself and ensuring you have good mental health has many benefits – not just for you as an individual, but for the business too. Employees are generally more productive, passionate and motivated when in good health. Even if they’re experiencing mental health problems, knowing they are supported by their employer can help in the recovery process.
STRESS PREVENTION IS BETTER THAN STRESS MANAGEMENT
Ultimately, the best way to manage stress is through prevention rather than cure.
Research shows that those who are better informed about the practical ways in which they can lower their stress levels are far better able to tackle difficult situations with emotional resilience and determination.
Within the workplace, employers are encouraged to make promoting the wellbeing of their employees a core element of the company’s internal operations. Some examples of a proactive approach to stress-management might be:
- To invite people to take active breaks away from their desks
- Offering lunchtime yoga classes or mindfulness sessions
- Group walks in the fresh air.
So what can help you reduce stress? Continue reading our stress, with Our Top Tips For Reducing Stress.
If you are interested in how Fleet Street Clinic can assist your workplace with stress management and resilience training, get in touch. Or if you are an individual who needs help with stress management, you can book a GP appointment online.
Everyone feels stressed from time to time. In small doses, stress can actually be quite useful; motivating us to achieve our goals. But for some, stress is chronic. Meaning it is debilitating and negatively impacts their mood, their health and wellbeing, their relationships and their work.
Experiencing a lot of stress over a long period of time can also lead to a feeling of physical, mental and emotional exhaustion, often called burnout. It is, therefore, easy to see why reducing stress across all areas of your life would be important. Stress management tips are a good place to start.
Learning how to manage your stress takes practice and time.
Here are our top 10 ways on managing and reducing stress.
10 TIPS TO REDUCE STRESS:
Prioritise your health
– make decisions which will benefit your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. For example, go alcohol-free a few nights each week or allow yourself time for a hobby you enjoy. These small steps for a healthier lifestyle will help in reducing stress levels.
Get a good night’s sleep (regularly)
– research clearly shows that sleep deprivation amplifies the symptoms associated with stress. Aim for between 7-9 hours of good quality sleep every night.
Practice deep breathing
– when our bodies are stressed, the muscles that help us breathe tighten. By focussing on taking several deep breaths we can quickly and effectively relieve physical symptoms associated with feeling stressed or anxious. Try to do this regularly throughout the day.
Drink enough water
– being dehydrated (however mild) causes our cortisol levels to rise, which automatically makes us feel stressed. Your body is already dehydrated if you’re feeling thirsty. So try to avoid reaching this point by hydrating yourself regularly. Aim for 2-3 litres per day, more in hot weather or when exercising.
Eat a balanced diet
– dieticians stress how certain foods have stress-relieving properties. For example, dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants, whilst avocados and oily fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids (both of which are proven to help lower anxiety levels).
– physical activity causes our brains to release mood-improving chemicals called endorphins. These help us to cope with potentially challenging situations. Both Public Health England and the World Health Organisation recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity each week, in bouts of 10 minutes or more. Choose activities you enjoy to achieve maximum benefit for the mind as well as the body.
Adopt a positive mindset
– research suggests that making a conscious effort to think positively can help protect us against a whole host of physical and mental issues, including stress.
Manage your time and tasks effectively
– by giving ourselves enough time in which to complete a given task, and by making sure that we don’t try and accomplish too many stressful things at once, we can reduce the likelihood of feeling overwhelmed.
Spend less time online
– many studies have found a strong positive correlation between internet usage and stress levels. Spending less time on our computers and phones is a simple way to practice self-care. Having screen-free time for at least an hour before bedtime has also been shown to improve sleep.
Learn to say no
– in a culture that demands we take on more and more responsibilities, having the confidence to say “no” will only become more important. This final tip takes us back to the start, by reiterating the importance of prioritising our health above unrealistic social pressures, and brings us onto developing an essential tool – resilience.
If you are interested in how Fleet Street Clinic can assist your workplace with stress management and resilience training, get in touch.
Or if you are an individual who needs help managing stress, you can book a GP appointment online. Our doctors will be able to talk through your thoughts, symptoms and emotions and set you on the right path to diagnosis. They will also be able to recommend relevant support services for stress, if appropriate.
Mental Health Awareness Week: Resilience
WHAT IS RESILIENCE?
Resilience is the ability to recover from adversity, hardships, or significant sources of stress.
It means “bouncing back” from difficult experiences, feeling stronger and more capable to cope than before. With life becoming more stressful than ever, it is an important skill to develop which can make a big difference between surviving and thriving within work and general life.
HOW RESILIENT AM I?
Research has shown that resilience is ordinary, not extraordinary, and is not simply a trait we either have or do not have.
So here’s the good news! Resilience can be developed. It involves behaviours, thoughts and actions which can be learned and developed in anyone.
SO HOW CAN I DEVELOP RESILIENCE?
Many studies show that the primary factor in developing resilience is having caring and supportive relationships within and outside the family, including at work. Relationships fostering trust, provide role models and offer encouragement and reassurance help bolster resilience.
Several additional factors are associated with resilience, including:
- The capacity to make realistic plans and take steps to carry them out.
- A positive view of yourself and confidence in your strengths and abilities.
- Skills in communication and problem-solving.
- The capacity to manage strong feelings and impulses.
These are all factors you can develop in yourself, and which can be fostered within the work environment by employers taking an active interest in employees’ wellbeing.
TOP TIPS FOR DEVELOPING RESILIENCE
Here are a few things you could try, to develop your resilience.
Please don’t feel you need to tackle them all at once – trying one or two at a time may be enough to make a big difference!
1) Create connections
– good relationships with family, friends and colleagues are crucial. Accepting help and support from those who will listen to and care about you strengthens resilience. Assisting others in their time of need can benefit you in return.
2) Accept that change is fundamentally part of living
– accepting circumstances that cannot be changed can help you deal with these more effectively whilst focussing on circumstances that you can alter.
3) Avoid seeing stressful events as insurmountable problems
– try to look beyond the present towards how future circumstances may be a little better. Take note of any subtle ways in which you might already feel better as you deal with difficult situations – signs of good progress.
4) Take decisive action
– this can assist you in giving some control over your response to challenging situations
5) Pursue your goals
– making them small but achievable and most importantly realistic. Each day, ask yourself “What’s one thing I know I can accomplish today which will help me move in the direction I want to go? Take baby steps in the right direction!
6) Nurture a positive outlook
– developing confidence in your ability to solve problems and trusting your instincts helps build resilience.
7) Keep things in perspective
– retaining an optimistic outlook and visualising what you want, rather than worrying about what you don’t want, can all help the brain engage with this.
8) Practice mindfulness and meditation
– Mindfulness means paying more attention to the present moment – to your own thoughts and feelings, and to the world around you. Meditation involves the use of techniques such as mindfulness to train attention and awareness. Mindfulness and meditation are believed to relax and calm the brain, tackling sources of stress while improving clarity focus and even sleep. According to mentalhealth.org.uk, those practising mindfulness have shown increased activity in the area of the brain associated with positive emotions.
9) Take opportunities for self-discovery and personal growth
– by learning something about themselves, people may find that they have grown in some respect. Many people who have experienced tragedies and hardship have reported better relationships, a greater sense of strength even while feeling vulnerable, increased sense of self-worth, a more developed spirituality and heightened appreciation for life.
10) Take good care of yourself
– pay attention to your own needs and feelings. Engage in activities that you enjoy and find relaxing. Exercise regularly. Taking care of yourself helps to keep your mind and body primed to deal with situations requiring resilience.
If you would like further help and support in resilience training in your workplace, get in touch with our Corporate Health department.
Stress: Are we coping?
We all feel the effects of stress in daily life, whether it’s managing children or dealing with a problem at work. Stress is a normal response, in fact, in small doses, stress can be useful. The problems arise when you start to have a ‘fight or flight’ stress response to situations in everyday life. This can lead to illness, both mentally and physically.
The first step is to recognise symptoms of stress:
- Nail biting and fidgeting
- Over-eating or loss of appetite
- Irritability with other people
- Substance abuse, including alcohol and smoking
- Lack of concentration
- Increased and suppressed anger
- Feeling out of control
- Excessive emotion & crying
- Lack of interest in anything
- Permanently tired even after sleep
By identifying stress-related problems as early as possible, action can be taken to avoid any serious stress-related illness. For Mental Health Awareness week, which runs from 14-18 May, here are some tips to help manage your own personal stress:
- Be active – 30 minutes a day can reduce the emotions and let you take the time to think more clearly
- Take control – you are your own worst enemy, but you are also the key to empowerment!
- Find support – Connect with your family and friends, the more help the better the solutions
- Take time for yourself – remember to have time for yourself as well. Read, relax and get things done on your to do list that may be holding you back
- Create challenges for yourself – Setting achievable goals, little or big can help build confidence in your abilities
- Avoid unhealthy habits – Cut down on caffeine, smoking, and alcohol. These can enhance the feeling of stress in the long run
- Be positive – Instead of looking at problems negatively, try to see what you can get out of it to help you grow. Be grateful!
- Acceptance – Take ownership of mistakes, or acceptance of things you can’t control.
Our Occupational Health team at the Fleet Street Clinic are able to provide a full range of work health assessments to address the occupational health needs of your staff. Click here for more information.
To book an appointment with one of our friendly doctors, or for further details on what we can offer for our Occupational Health, call us today on 0207 353 5678 email firstname.lastname@example.org