Take a deep breath, it's Stress Awareness Month
In today’s climate, the world seems to be built on stress. From family troubles to jobs piling up, upcoming exams to finances, illnesses and general living!
April is stress awareness month, a time when we raise awareness of the negative impacts of stress, and how we can all control it to improve our overall health and wellbeing. Without recognising stress, it can consume us and develop into more severe health issues.
What is stress?
Stress is a natural response that everyone experiences on a day to day basis. It is our body’s response to pressures from challenging situations in life. It can be a feeling of being overwhelmed, under pressure, and panic.
There are three main types of stress:
This is the most commonly experienced stress. It’s often comes on suddenly and is usually short term. For example, giving a presentation at work or sitting an exam.
Episodic stress is a more frequent form of stress that people will experience if they are overwhelmed with constant responsibilities. Their minds never switch off. This is common with parents and people with busy jobs.
When someone is exposed to stressors (an event or situation that causes stress) too frequently, the stress can become chronic, meaning it begins to take over your life. People living with financial difficulties, bullying, or are unhappy with their jobs, will experience chronic stress.
Distress Vs Eustress
Stress is a natural response, we experience it for a reason, and it keeps us alert. Eustress is a type of stress that is ‘healthy’. It’s a coping mechanism that keeps us motivated. We can be stressed and excited at the same time, for example, when you’re packing for a holiday, or about to begin your dream job. This is usually acute stress and can be easily managed.
Distress is the bad kind of stress and causes general unhappiness. This is the stress that can lead to panic and panic attacks, this is the stress that we need to keep under control otherwise it’ll cause more damage.
What does stress do to your body?
Stress, especially chronic stress, can damage you both physically and mentally, which in turn can lead us to stressing even more, beginning a nasty, stressful cycle.
Physical symptoms of stress include losing or gaining weight (a common coping mechanism is ‘stress eating’), migraines, problems with your digestive system (constipation or diarrhea) and issues with your reproductive system - pregnant women who experience too much stress can also risk damaging their baby. It can also lead to an increased risk of a heart attack, stroke, or hypertension.
You can book an appointment at your local pharmacy to have your blood pressure measured here.
Mental symptoms of stress include an increased risk of depression and anxiety. In extreme cases, stress can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
In most cases, stress is just part of life and will come and go. Not stressing enough can actually lead to similar health issues and stressing too much, so it’s good to find the right balance.
How to control stress
Leaving the house and getting some fresh air is incredibly important for both your physical and mental health. Spending just five minutes out in nature can improve your mood.
Related Article: Mental health & coping mechanisms
Stay off social media
Social media has a lot of benefits, but it’s also very easy to be exposed to bad news and negativity which can stress you out. Limiting how long you stay on social media will mean that you are less likely to get consumed by the negativity.
Reduce alcohol and caffeine
Going out for a drink with friends every now and then is a great way to let loose and have fun, however overdoing it can lead to a high feeling of stress (or ‘hangxiety’). If you are already stressed, consuming alcohol can increase that feeling. It’s also important to balance your caffeine intake, as it can affect you sleep and blood pressure, leading to a risk of insomnia, hypertension, and anxiety.
Also read: Food to avoid with high blood pressure
Speak to your pharmacist
If you feel you are stressed most of the time, speaking to your local pharmacist can be incredibly beneficial as they’ll provide professional healthcare advice and possible products you can use to relieve stress.
Get enough sleep
The average adult should have between seven and eight hours sleep. Making sure that your body is well rested is crucial for your nervous system and overall wellbeing. You’ll be more likely to function and process stressful situations if you’re recharged and ready to take on the day.
Take a break
Sometimes, the best thing you can do is take your mind off the stress and take a break. Of course this is dependent on your situation, don’t run away from all of your problems! But, if what’s stressing you out can wait, it can wait. Going away for a weekend and stepping away from the hustle and bustle of day to day life not only means you can relax for a while, but it also means you’ll have a fresh look on your stressful situation when you return.