22 May 2018

14 - 20 May 2018 Every year, thousands of supporters across the UK take part in Mental Health Awareness Week, which creates an opportunity for each of us to think about Mental Health and Wellbeing.

Mental Health Awareness Week is organised by the Mental Health Foundation. The Foundation has held awareness weeks on a yearly basis since the year 2000. Each year has a different theme.

This year's theme is Stress: Are we coping?

Research has shown that two thirds of us experience a mental health problem in our lifetimes, and stress is a key factor in this.

By tackling stress, we can go a long way to tackle mental health problems such as anxiety and depression, and, in some instances, self-harm and suicide

What is stress?

Stress is a feeling of being under abnormal pressure. This pressure can come from different aspects of your day to day life. Such as an increased workload, a transitional period, an argument you have with your family or new and existing financial worries. You may find that it has a cumulative effect, with each stressor building on top of one another.

Three steps to take when feeling stressed

1. Realise when it is causing you a problem

  • Try to make the connection between feeling tired or ill and the pressures you are faced with
  • Look out for physical warnings such as tense muscles, over-tiredness, headaches or migraines

2. Identify the causes

  • Try to identify the underlying causes
  • Sort the possible reasons for your stress into three categories 1) those with a practical solution 2) those that will get better given time and 3) those you can't do anything about
  • Try to release the worry of those in the second and third groups and let them go

3. Review your lifestyle

  • Could you be taking on too much?
  • Are there things you are doing which could be handed over to someone else?
  • Can you do things in a more leisurely way?
  • To act on the answer to these questions, you may need to prioritise things you are trying to achieve and re-organise your life

This will help to release pressure that can come from trying to do everything at once.

Seven steps to help protect yourself from stress

1. Eat healthily
  • Eating healthily can reduce the risks of diet-related diseases
  • There is a growing amount of evidence showing how food affects our mood and how eating healthily can improve this
  • You can protect your feelings of wellbeing by ensuring that your diet provides adequate amounts of brain nutrients such as essential vitamins and minerals, as well as water
2. Be aware of smoking and drinking alcohol
  • Try not to, or reduce the amount you smoke and drink alcohol
  • Even though they may seem to reduce tension initially, this is misleading as they often make problems worse
3. Exercise
  • Try and integrate physical exercise into your lifestyle as it can be very effective in relieving stress
  • Even just going out and getting some fresh air, and taking some light physical exercise, like going for a walk to the shops can really help

4.Take time out

  • Take time to relax
  • Strike the balance between responsibility to others and responsibility to yourself, this can really reduce stress levels
  • Tell yourself that it is okay to prioritise self-care · Are you needing time out but saying 'I just can't take the time off', if so read more about how taking a break is important for good mental health
5. Be mindful
  • Mindfulness is a mind-body approach to life that helps us to relate differently to experiences. It involves paying attention to our thoughts and feelings in a way that increases our ability to manage difficult situations and make wise choices
  • Try to practice mindfulness regularly
  • Mindfulness meditation can be practiced anywhere at any time
  • Research has suggested that it can reduce the effects of stress, anxiety and related problems such as insomnia, poor concentration and low moods, in some people
6. Get some restful sleep
  • Are you finding you are struggling to sleep? This is a common problem when you're stressed
  • Could your physical or mental health be impacting your ability to sleep?
  • Could you amend your environment to help improve your sleep?
  • Could you get up instead of staying in bed when your mind is worrying at night?
  • Could you make small changes to your lifestyle to help your get a restful sleep?
7. Don't be too hard on yourself
  • Try to keep things in perspective.
  • Remember that having a bad day is a universal human experience
  • When your inner critic or an outer critic finds faults, try and find truth and exception to what is being said
  • If you stumble or feel you have failed, don't beat yourself up
  • Act as if you were your own best friend: be kind and supportive
  • Take a few minutes each day to appreciate yourself

Consider your stress footprint

We work in a busy and sometimes stressful environment. What we don't sometimes realise is that our behaviour can affect others in negative ways.

The Stress Footprint is the second-hand stress others unknowingly pick up from you, and you unknowingly pick up from others. We are social and empathetic creatures and often feel and mimic the emotions of those we're around, such as tension caused by feelings of stress.

As well as looking after your own Mental Health & Wellbeing, the MH Awareness Week is a good opportunity for us to be mindful of the stress we may be causing others and to promote positivity. This ties in with the Croydon value of being Professional at all times.  

The Mental Health Foundation is a charity organisation. The information above was sourced from the MH Awareness Week 2018 promotional material: www.mentalhealth.org.uk

To find out more about Mental Health Week visit www.mentalhealth.org.uk , @mentalhealth

Stress: are we coping?

Mental Health Awareness Week 2018

My stress footprint

How to manage and reduce stress