The focus of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week (14th to 16th May 2018) is stress. Stress can be a factor in mental health problems and by reducing stress we can make a real difference in our mental health.
Stress is not a problem in itself. We have all experienced stress. Stress becomes a problem when it is overwhelming and continuous. It therefore becomes chronic and may lead to mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. Stress can even affect our physical health and can lead to insomnia, cardiovascular disease and a supressed immune system.
Society is all go at the moment and we are continually ‘busy’ but all sorts of situations and environments can cause stress from work, family and worries about money.
So, in what ways can we cope with stress?
Assess your lifestyle and think about the causes of the stress in your life. What can you do to help reduce those stress factors? Can any stressors be eliminated? It is not always easy but starting off with something small can help. Take time out of your day to do something for yourself – take part in that hobby you have always wanted to do, take that long bath and try taking your full lunch break at work.
Are you are pleaser? Perhaps you might need to try to say no to unreasonable requests especially if you feel overburdened and overwhelmed.
Ask for help if you need it especially if you already have a good support network in place. If not, try to build one. Your support network does not need to be your family and friends but support groups, your GP or online groups.
Make sure you get enough sleep – sleep is so important for our wellbeing. A lack of sleep can add to stressors.
We often separate our physical and mental health but they are very closely related. Physical exercise can help to alleviate stress and you do not have to take out a gym membership; going out for regular walks can be equally as helpful. Weight lifting can help to improve your mood and confidence.
Eating well can help to improve your mood. Eating the right foods and regularly can keep your brain working well and thus help to regulate your mood, thus avoiding those quick boots in energy and then the resulting slump.
Counselling, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and psychotherapy are useful ways of gaining more insight into your feelings and thoughts. These treatments can help to build resilience against stress and help you to move forward in a positive way. Complimentary therapies such as meditation can help to cope with and alleviate stress.
Managing our mental health is not necessarily simple. However, most of all I encourage you not to judge yourself. Treat yourself with compassion – we all go through hard times.