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Today we’re going to be talking about stress and mental health. Yes, that’s right. The thing people don’t usually talk about – we’re talking about it.
In honour of Mental Health Awareness week we’ll be focusing in on stress and what we can do about it; as we find that stress is a key component of mental health issues within our sector. Why, we hear you ask? 82% of students suffer from stress and anxiety. Social workers are becoming physically ill because they’re overwhelmed. Mind have found that 88% of primary care workers find their job stressful. With such a high number of our society noting that stress affects their lives, it’s no doubt mental health needs an awareness week. As a community we all need to start talking more openly about mental health, what causes it and how we can help those suffering.
If you think you’re part of these statistics or want to know your colleagues, friends or family are suffering from stress, carry on reading.
What is stress, and how might it affect us?
Stress is a physical response. When you feel stressed, your body thinks it’s under attack and switches to ‘fight or flight’ mode, which leads to the release of hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline to prepare the body for physical action, leading to several reactions, from exacerbating heart problems to digestive issues. Sound familiar? If this happens too often our body can no longer respond to stress and we start to feel extremely fatigued.
So, what causes stress?
Stress is hugely noticeable in students. Despite the fun image we often have of student life, for most people, university isn’t all fun and games. The main causes of stress among university students are keeping up to date with assignments, homesickness and financial problems. Many people say university are the ‘best years of your life, giving students a high expectation of having a great stress free time. Sadly, this is the case and students go to university not knowing what to expect.
Once you enter the professional world, unfortunately stress does not go away. Given the situations social workers deal with when working, there is an unavoidable level of stress attached to their daily life. Stress can come from worrying about a particular situation, outcome or person – so social workers could be worrying about families they work with, a person in crisis or ensuring they are staying on top of their workloads. Care professionals have similar experiences, being anxious about providing the best care to those who need it. Care workers are sometimes having to keep track of numerous medications and care requirements – and all this is before we consider any stress coming from their personal lives!
It seems no matter what stage in life you’re at, stress is unavoidable and so with that comes the risk for mental health issues.
Are you suffering from stress? Student or professional – here are some tips to deal with stress.
Managing your time – one of the best ways of dealing with stress is by making the best use of your time. A good way of doing this is to create a timetable for yourself that includes everything you need to do for the day/week. There are many online sites such as Calendarpedia that provide timetable templates if you struggle to make your own. Just remember it’s important not to have unrealistic expectations, some days you may not want to do anything at all and take a break – this is completely fine.
Exercising – You may not be a fitness fanatic or get up at 6am and go for a jog type of person but it is known that there is a strong link between mental health and good health. Most universities offer free/cheap gym memberships, some offer classes for activities such as Zumba! If you don’t like the idea of going to a gym, you could always exercise for free, by going for a walk or jog. This is a great way to unwind after a stressful day!
Mindfulness – We’ve written in the past about the benefits of a mindful way of life, so we definitely recommend looking into yoga, meditation or mindful colouring books as a way to unwind in your free time.
Here are some quick tips for whenever you’re feeling stressed. They may not take all your stress away like magic, but will alleviate some of your anxiety and make you feel a little better.
- Have a drink to keep you hydrated and maintain your wellbeing, maybe a cup of tea or coffee?
- Take a break – often we get so caught up in our daily lives we forget to take time out for the sake of our own mental health. Whether it be 15 minutes or a few hours – whatever works for you.
- Talk to somebody – talking to a friend or family member may help alleviate some of your stress, as it’s not just in your head anymore. Don’t be afraid to speak up.
- Treat yourself – Finally got that difficult assignment out of the way? Treat yourself! Celebrate!
Please remember – do not be scared if you are affected by mental illness. Although it doesn’t feel like it, it’s not a reflection on you personally, but on your current situation. It will get better. There is help available.