May 14th to 20th 2018 is Mental Health Awareness Week, and initiative set up by the Mental Health Foundation to put mental health on the agenda.
This year, the theme is 'Stress: Are we coping?', which focusses on how stress is impacting on our lives and how we can manage it for a more fulfilling existence.
Britons are working increasingly long hours, with technology allowing work to eat into our leisure time and changing the nature of social interaction. We are becoming ever more connected yet increasingly isolated from our communities, and psychologists believe that this is starting to affect the overall mental health of the nation. Families are increasingly complex and the social landscape requires us to regularly update our views and opinions to become accepting of previously taboo situations. Couple these factors with a reduction of leisure time, crowded commutes and living environments and financial instability and it is not surprising that stress related illnesses are on the rise. Diagnosed mental health conditions are on the increase and NHS funding is struggling to meet the demand.
However, it is not all doom and gloom. During this week, as well as raising awareness and increasing understanding for those who are suffering, we are all encouraged to focus on managing our stress levels and helping others to do the same. Mental health is a sliding scale - we all have good and bad days, and good and bad moments in each day, fluctuating levels of both stress and the ability to cope with it.
Whilst stress is a natural human reaction that assists our survival and helps us to maintain a healthy interest in life, and is not harmful in the short term, in modern society, we are sometimes trapped in situations which provoke a fight or flight response for long periods of time. The body is then fooled into producing the same physiological response to perceived threats, which don't subside and so the adrenaline levels also persist for long periods of time, which can lead to depression, anxiety and panic attacks, all of which can severly affect the ability of an individual to function and even in suicide.
Stress manifests itself in four main ways - physical, cognitive, emotional and behavioural
- The first step is to recognise the signs of stress and how it is affecting your abilty to function normally
- It is important to identify the causes of stress and find ways of regaining control over those areas of your life in order to avoid feeling overwhelmed.
- Devise a stress plan and build your resilience so that you are more able to cope with unexpected change.
- Find some basic coping strategies that work for you to overcome feelings of stress
- Make positive changes to reduce the number of stress triggers on an ongoing basis.
- Be kind to yourself. Accept that some level of stress is inevitable and adopt a self-care routine
Mental health is intrinsically linked to physical health and much research has been carried out into how people can improve their wellbeing. A good diet, regular exercise and avoiding artificial stimulants are of course on the list, but we aso need to consider how relaxation, talking about feelings, a sense of community and recreation as important in maintaining a healthy and balanced lifestyle can help to reduce stress.
If stress levels start to manifest themselves in depression or anxiety lasting more than a couple of weeks, or repeated panic attacks and you are unable to manage your conidition using self-care techniques or feel unable to cope with your situation, counselling can help.
Contact CCC to book an initial assessment with a qualified and experienced professional. Don't suffer in silence!
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