29 April 2022
Stress Awareness Month
April is Stress Awareness Month and it has been run every year since 1982. Stress Awareness Month aims to increase public awareness about both the causes and cures for stress. This year, the theme was community and the importance of the role of the community in fighting back against stress. Having a community surrounding us can help to reduce any feelings of loneliness, isolation and can offer support to those in need. Stress can affect us all, and it is an inevitable part of our day to day lives. It is known that a little bit of stress can be good for us as it challenges and motivates us to reach our goals, however too much stress can cause serious mental and physical health problems.
Good stress can be the type of stress you might feel when you are excited, which releases a surge of adrenaline. In this case your pulse may quicken, and hormones increase, but it leaves us feeling happy and full of life. This type of stress is often referred to as ‘eustress’. This can include taking on a new challenge at work, your wedding day, trying out a new hobby and even travelling can be classified as eustress as it is both stressful and rewarding. Most people gain a positive experience out of it. It might be difficult to establish whether a situation is eustress or distress, and this is because the physical effects can be very similar as they are both have a fight-or-flight response. It’s important to know that eustress can turn into distress but more positively, distress can turn into eustress.
There are three main types of stress: acute, episodic acute, and chronic stress:
Acute stress comes from a particularly stressful event, it is classified as short-term as the emotions and physical effects return to their normal state quickly. It is one of the least damaging types of stress, and it’s the most common. Acute stress can be a result of events such as natural disasters, car accidents, death of a loved one etc. Symptoms of acute stress include anxiety, perspiration, poor sleep, and concentration, amongst others.
Episodic acute stress is an experience of acute stress but on a frequent basis and for a longer period, the body does not get to return to a relaxed state. People who suffer with this type of stress will often take on more projects and responsibilities than they can handle. The symptoms of it include fast and heavy breathing, muscle tension, migraines, and hypertension.
Chronic stress is a result of stressors that continue for a long time, which can feel never ending and like there’s no way to improve the situation. An example of a stressor that could cause chronic stress would be living in a high crime neighbourhood. Chronic stress can cause side effects such as insomnia, panic attacks, emotional fatigue, and feelings of helplessness. Not only can people experience the aforementioned side effects, but sufferers can also experience more serious consequences such as increased cholesterol, higher blood sugar and blood pressure, digestive problems, weight gain, depression, and anxiety.
Stress can be caused by a large variety of things, but some of the most common stressors include work, money, relationships, health, and traumatic events. There are many ways to help reduce stress and the effects it can have on us. These include participating in physical activity, which reduces levels of the body’s stress hormones and stimulates the production of endorphins, which elevates our mood. Having a healthy diet and staying hydrated are also known stress reducers as they lower blood pressure and strengthen the body’s immune system. Other methods of reducing stress include minimising screen time, practicing self-care, reducing caffeine and therapy.
In 2020 it was found that 79% of employees experience workplace stress regularly1, which makes it the most common type of stress in the UK. But what can we do in order to reduce the amount of stress we feel towards work? Here are a few:
- Take necessary breaks: these are very important for your mental and physical health. Not only should you take an uninterrupted lunch break, but you should also take short breaks every so often throughout the day.
- Figure out what it is that causes your stress and what actions you can take to reduce it: this sounds simple, but it can be challenging to figure out what the reasons are for any stress.
- Look after your physical health, eat well, and keep hydrated: as previously mentioned, having a healthy diet, and staying hydrated are known stress reducers.
- Get outside on your lunch break: go for a walk, or even just step outside for a minute to get some fresh air and a change of scenery.
- Ask for help if you need it: there’s never any shame in asking for help when it’s necessary to, whether this be from colleagues, managers or even a mental health professional.
- Start your day off right: make sure you give yourself enough time in a morning to get ready and get to work in plenty of time. If you have a stressful morning, you’ve already started the day off on a bad foot.
- Stay organised
Over on our Instagram @sheffieldmutual, we have been posting all about stress throughout this month. You can catch up with our posts by checking out the ‘stress’ highlight on our profile!
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