Stress Awareness Month 2021
As well as being April Fools Day, today is the first day of Stress Awareness Month which is recognised globally and has been held every April since 1992. The aim behind it is to increase awareness and education around the causes and cures for our modern-day stress epidemic.
A recent study conducted by the Stress Management Society found that 65% of people have reported increased stress levels since the COVID-19 restrictions began in March 2020. Three key causes were identified which are: disconnection, uncertainty, and a worrying loss of control.
This year’s stress awareness theme incorporates these factors in an attempt to help those who are struggling through practical steps and tips.
Stress is linked to so many different medical conditions both physical and mental including heart disease, immune system problems, digestive issues, depression and anxiety.
Although we are all aware that stress is not good for our health, 74% of adults reported that they felt so stressed at some point over the last year that they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope.
The Stress Management site encourages us to be mindful of our triggers, in order to recognise the signs of stress and then take the necessary steps to help ourselves.
This year’s campaign includes the 30-day challenge which asks us to pick one action for physical, mental and emotional well-being to incorporate into our daily routines in an attempt to combat stress. The programme includes a calendar to chart progress which can be downloaded from the Stress Management Site.
I’m pleased to report that I am already making steps to aid my physical, mental and emotional well-being; I am walking and riding-out daily for my physical health, taking time to read my book every night for my mental health and am making an effort to speak to at least one friend a day to aid my (and their) emotional well-being.
After discovering that being around flowers can increase the production of dopamine, I have decided that smelling a flower is now also going to be one of my daily tenets!
The Stress Management website gives lots of advice about how to combat stress including: adopting a positive mindset through the use of affirmations, cutting down on tech, healthy eating, staying hydrated and getting plenty of sleep.
Although I’ve spent twenty years of my life suffering from depression and bipolar, I am not in fact someone who gets particularly stressed. For me, the illness was more about distress which isn’t quite the same thing, but I do practice a few techniques which can be applied to both.
When I was going through an especially traumatic mixed state bipolar episode I would sit in a darkened room for hours and hours constantly battling and resisting my suicidal thoughts. I managed to survive in part, by the repeated use of breathing techniques which I still occasionally use even though I am now well.
The 4,7,8 technique promotes deep relaxation and can be practiced by breathing in slowly through the nose for a count of four, holding the breath for seven, and exhaling through pursed lips for a count of eight. It’s a great one to practice at times of stress or distress and can be used at any time and in any situation.
Other things to think about include learning to say ‘no’ and prioritising time for one’s self, cutting out all caffeine, not emailing out of work hours and resisting the temptation to look or reply! Not engaging with social media (or limiting it massively) and getting better at the art of delegation!
Relaxation techniques can also help. There are a huge number of guided meditations on YouTube, some of which I have used when trying to get to sleep but they can also help to reduce stress.
There is also an app called ‘Headspace’ which teaches you how to meditate and practice mindfulness. I have added one of their videos to the homepage entitled ‘A 10 Minute Meditation to Reframe Stress’.
Factoring in time for yourself is also very important and I know it can seem almost impossible with children, jobs, daily errands and chores but it is essential for maintaining mental health and well-being. Make it a priority because stressed spouses, partners, parents, or siblings are not productive, effective or nice to be around!
I mentioned the benefits of spending time alone in a previous post. Walking in nature with no distractions is great for relaxation and clearing the mind and practicing self-care through relaxing baths can also be beneficial. Light a scented candle, lavender, orange and apple especially good for stress relief, and lie back and relax!
I have to say, I’ve never been any good at self-care, partly because I’ve been far too depressed to be bothered with it (mental illness doesn’t respond to personal care!) but also because I don’t think men think about self-care in the same way as women do.
Anyway, I know it is important to look after my mental well-being and if that means taking baths and lighting scented candles then hell I’ll do it – I’ll do ANYTHING if it benefits my mental health!
I would love to know what others do to combat stress so do please let me know!
If you would like to read about Stress Awareness Month and download the 30-day challenge calendar then you can find it here.
Thanks for reading,
Speak to you soon,