April is Stress Awareness Month
April is Stress Awareness Month
All of us deal with a certain level of day-to-day stress. When that stress becomes too hard to manage, causing harm to our physical and mental wellbeing, that’s when it becomes a big problem. There may be early warning signs of excessive demands and challenges, but often stress will creep up on us. We want to support staff who may be suffering due to increased levels of stress and provide resources to help combat the negative effects.
April is Stress Awareness month and we want to use this opportunity to increase awareness about both the causes and cures for our modern stress epidemic. Individually we need to understand what is causing us personal stress and learn what steps we can take to reduce it for ourselves and those around us.
What is stress?
It’s important to remember that stress is not necessarily a ‘bad’ thing. Without the onset of stress alerting us to potential danger, our ancestors would have not been able to survive. Stress is primarily a physical response. When stressed, the body thinks it is under attack and switches to ‘fight or flight’ mode, it enables us to focus our attention so we can quickly respond to the situation. The challenge is when our body goes into a state of stress in inappropriate situations. This can lead to an inability to ‘think straight’; a state that is a great hindrance in both our work and home lives. If we are kept in a state of stress for long periods, it can be detrimental to our health.
The Stress Management Society use the bridge analogy to approach the topic of stress. When a bridge is carrying too much weight, it will eventually collapse.
A ‘bridge collapse’ in a person could take many forms:
- Mental and emotional breakdown
- Serious health issues (such as rise in blood pressure or heart disease)
- Taking one’s own life
However, it is possible to see the warning signs before this happens. The bridge would buckle and creak. If we can recognise when we have too much demand on our bridge then we can take action to prevent ourselves from getting anywhere near the bridge collapsing.
What can you do to address stress?
The NHS website suggests 10 ways to reduce your stress:
- Be active – exercise won’t make your stress disappear, but it can reduce the emotional intensity that you might be feeling. Read how being active helps mental wellbeing.
- Take control – The act of taking control is in itself empowering, and it’s a crucial part of finding a solution that satisfies you and not someone else. Get tips on how to manage your time.
- Connect with people – A good support network of colleagues, friends and family can ease your work troubles and help you see things in a different way.
- Have some ‘me time’ – work and personal commitments often mean we don’t spend enough time doing things we really enjoy. Try to set aside a couple of nights a week for some quality ‘me’ time.
- Challenge yourself – setting yourself goals and challenges, whether at work or outside, helps to build confidence. This will help you deal with stress.
- Avoid unhealthy habits – don’t rely on alcohol, smoking and caffeine as your ways of coping. This will not solve your problems in the long term, it is more likely that it will create new ones.
- Help other people – evidence shows that people who help others, through activities such as volunteering or community work, become more resilient.
- Work smarter, not harder – prioritise your work and concentrate on the tasks that will make a real difference.
- Try to be positive – look for the positives in life. Try writing down three things that went well, or for which you are grateful, at the end of each day.
- Accept the things you can’t change – Changing a difficult situation isn’t always possible. Try to concentrate on the things you do have control over.
Do you need support?
NCH&C is committed to the health and wellbeing of our staff. If you feel like stress is impacting your life, don’t forget there is always someone who can help. Please utilise the following resources, before your bridge collapses:
- NHS People
If you need immediate support, please visit the support now pages on NHS People. Free and accessible on any device.
- Norfolk and Suffolk Staff support line
This free and confidential service is run in partnership between the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT) and Suffolk Mind. NHS staff can call 0300 123 1335, 09.30-16.30 Monday-Friday or email firstname.lastname@example.org
- How are you, really? Resources
Download our resource pack for managers to support staff.
- Mental health support