Stress, and the impacts on our health
We all get stressed. Whether we’ve been going through a hard time at home or work, or something as trivial as the frustration we get when we forget to pick up some milk on the way home, as humans we all respond differently to stress, and this can be due to our social or economic circumstances and our genetic DNA.
Today, as usual for the first Wednesday in November, is National Stress Awareness Day; a great opportunity to understand the meaning of feeling ‘stressed’ and seek advice, support or help on how to manage it for ourselves. UK mental health charity, Mind, explain that although we all experience stress as part of our ‘flight or fight’ response to keep us alert and safe during potentially dangerous situations, it’s when it becomes overwhelming that stress can lead to mental health problems and negatively impact our health.
According to the Mental Health Foundation, stress at the most basic level is “our body’s response to pressures from a situation or life event … when experiencing something new or unexpected, something that threatens your feeling of self, or feeling you have little control over a situation”. Although nowadays we refer to stress as being a negative concept, in small doses stress can actually result in that feeling of ‘pressure’ and nerves which actually helps to push us through certain situations, for example, giving us that push to confidently present in front of a group of peers at work.
With the concept of stress in-built into our DNA helping us to both survive and push us forward in nerve-wracking situations, when in excessive levels, you can end up being in a constant state of ‘fight or flight’ and this can negatively impact your mental health dramatically.
Learning to cope and handle stress for some people can be hard, but it is doable with certain behavioural therapy, to understand what makes us feel a certain way, the reasons why, and working out how best to cope with the feelings we do have. As stress can cause both mental and physical changes for people, it’s important to learn how best it is for you to minimise the feelings of anxiety, and that includes exercise, connecting with people, avoiding unhealthy habits and having some well-deserved down time!
According to the NHS, exercise is a great way of minimising stress as it allows you to “reduce some of the emotional intensity that you’re feeling”, clearing your thoughts and helping to take your mind off the worries.
Making sure to have a great support system in place is also paramount in reducing stress and its symptoms. Friends, family and work colleagues can not only be a shoulder to cry on, but they’re a great support and can be understand how you’re feeling and reassure you that everything’s all well and good.
Having down-time is also a vital task when trying to work through stress. Having a certain amount each day to check in with yourself and relax is vital in giving you some breathing time and reduce the stress you have at certain parts of the day – with the idea that this can infiltrate into other parts of your life too. Whether you like to go for a run, take a bath, learn a new skill, or watch your favourite TV show cuddled up on the sofa with your Everyday Cotton leggings on, whatever you love to do – just do it!