Stress awareness is a great way to bring light to the fact that stress is a significant factor that affects our mental health. It is another nudge for us to check in on ourselves!
The month of April has been categorised as Stress Awareness Month for the last 29 years; an important month to highlight the consequence of stress on our mental health. The Mental Health Foundation in the UK has found that 74% of adults have felt overwhelmingly stressed in the last year that they felt unable to cope.
High stress levels negatively impact our mental health and contribute in its decline, resulting in depression and anxiety. We are largely aware that it is key to keep on top of our physical health in maintaining our overall health. Having high stress levels can affect our physical health such as our immune system, digestive system and even cause disorders such as insomnia. It therefore becomes important to identify the major stressors in our lives and find ways to manage them. In this article I am going to discuss what stress is and how to identify patterns of stress. I will then move on to briefly touch on ways to cope with these stresses, and how we can develop our mental health resilience.
What is stress?
There is no medical definition of the word stress and it is often defined as a reaction to a situation, or some actions toward different circumstances that differ from our natural behaviour. Stress is a natural feeling which may, in some cases, help us in difficult situations and may push us to do our best in certain environments. However, high levels of stress may lead to what we tend to associate with the word ‘stress’. These are situations where we tend to feel as if we have no control over some situations, which sometimes has the proclivity to make us feel unable to cope. This is the type of stress that negatively affects our physical and mental health.
How to identify if you are stressed?
The feeling of stress can be quite subtle. However, there are some signs you can be mindful of. Some are:
- Are you irritable? Do you find yourself snapping at others or overreacting to a situation? You can’t seem reason with yourself when you feel annoyed at things that normally do not have the same impact on you.
- Are you anxious? Do you find yourself constantly feeling fearful or uneasy in ways that are interfering with your day-to-day? Do you find yourself having panic attacks?
- Do you find yourself not enjoying the things you normally do? Do you feel guilty about doing these things? Is your mind distracted?
- Are you worried all the time? Do you feel as though you have lost your sense of peace?
These are some signs that you may be stressed. If you found yourself saying yes to the above questions, it might be beneficial to give yourself some time to realise what is causing the stress and if you can find ways to alleviate this. You can learn more about identifying and managing burnout syndrome here! Nevertheless, it might be helpful to speak to people you trust as well and if you do feel as though it is not possible to pick up on what it is, it may be helpful to consult mental health professionals.
Ways in which to cope with stress
Sophie, one of the bloggers on Brain-Based wrote an article (here), which addresses ways in which you can try to cope with stress that is only not external self-care but also internal. She mentions exercising, eating well and being around those who make you feel good. Some other tips are making a plan on how to relieve yourself of stressors, if that is an exam or deadline – setting out times where you tackle small goals to achieve the larger goal. You could also start journaling as an outlet for stress (this may help you express your emotions) or pick up new hobbies that bring you joy.
It is also worth mentioning some things that could bring you some joy. This could be going on a walk, painting your nails, watching a funny series, reading a book, face masks, cleaning, cooking, baking etc. Each of us have our own ways of dealing with stressful situations, and finding out what that is might help!
Mental Health Resilience?
Resilience can be regarded as ‘the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, threats or significant amounts of stress’. Here are some tips in building your mental health resilience:
- It might be good to learn about stress and mental health. Understanding ways in which you can take care of your mental health can help you analyse your mental health strengths and weaknesses. It might be helpful to focus on your weaknesses and find ways to convert them into strengths.
- Surround yourself with others who make you feel good. Evaluate your friendships, are there some people who make you feel worse after you talk to them than before? Try to surround yourself with people who value reciprocity, and are interested in being a proactive friend.
- Eat well and exercise! It helps improve your energy levels which may in turn help reduce your stress levels.
- Take time for yourself EVERYDAY! If it helps, switch off from social media. Give yourself breaks from work, school, university and do things that make you happy that hopefully help in making you feel less overwhelmed.
- If you feel like things are not working, please do not be afraid to ask for help. This can be from trusted friends, family members or even mental health professionals. You matter and your mental health matters!
Stress awareness month has been a time for us all to check-in on ourselves and others around us – but it shouldn’t stop here! Stress awareness should be practiced every day. Do the things that make you happy and try to do the same for others!
Feature Image: Pexels, photo by S Migaj.
Sources that inspired this article:
Edited by Malavika