April is Stress Awareness Month and as the world appears to be currently suffering a collective bout of anxiety over the coronavirus crisis, it seems an apt time for people to address the stress they are experiencing in life and how best to combat.
Even before the global pandemic took hold, millions of people were experiencing stress on a daily basis for a number of different reasons. There are many potential sources of stress, such as work, finance, family and relationships. The stress trigger might be different for different people, but if it is not dealt with properly, it can have long-term adverse effects on our mental and physical health.
Stress Awareness Month aims to shine a light on stress and give people help and advice on how to deal with it. According to figures on their website, in the last year, the Mental Health Foundation has found that almost three-quarters of all adults in the UK have felt stressful to the point of not being able to cope or feeling overwhelmed.
What is Stress?
It is important to realise that not all stress is bad for our bodies. Stress is the result of an instinctive defence mechanism within our bodies and is designed to protect us from danger and alert us to threatening situations. So, stress is a natural reaction to some sort of change in our circumstances.
When does Stress Become Harmful?
Stress becomes harmful when it becomes continuous. We may experience a brief bout of stress when we narrowly escape an accident or some other potentially harmful event, but that stress soon passes. It’s when stress from a certain source or sources doesn’t pass and is persistent. That’s when our bodies’ natural anti-stress mechanisms become overloaded and struggle to cope. This is when our mental and physical health suffers.
What are the Main Sources of Stress?
These will be different for different people. Some people might experience prolonged stress over money and financial worries. Something like debt or poor credit, which can spiral, has been found to be a major source of stress for a lot of people.
Others derive stress from certain relationships, whether they are professional or personal. As we know from current events, people can also experience stress when they worry about major events in the news.
How can we Combat Stress?
Often knowing how to climb out of stress can be half the battle. When you become overwhelmed by stress and anxiety, you sometimes lack the clarity of thought as to how to help yourself.
That’s why the first step to combating stress can be facing it. Identify the sources of your stress and divide the things in your life into those which you have control over and those which you don’t. You can then focus on making the changes necessary to the things you can control and stop wasting worry on the things you can’t.
Practicing mindfulness can be an effective way to combat stress and there are many books and online resources which can get you started on this.
Talking to others can be another way to alleviate stress, even if you aren’t speaking specifically about the things which are bothering you. Just reaching out to communicate with others can help you see the bigger picture which your stress doesn’t allow you to.
If you are feeling particularly over-burdened by stress to the point that your mental and physical health is deteriorating, then you should seek help from a qualified psychologist or other healthcare professional.
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