Stress Awareness Month – April 2021
Since 1992 Stress Awareness Month has been held every April to increase public awareness regarding the causes, signs, symptoms, and ways of managing stress. According to the Mental Health Foundation over the last year, 74% of UK adults have felt overwhelmed or unable to cope due to stress.
Stress is primarily a physical response and is our bodies way of responding to various forms of threat, demand, or pressure. When our bodies sense danger or feel under attack our defence systems are activated releasing a complex mix of hormones and chemicals which help to prepare our bodies to respond and protect us. This results in a number of physical responses from changes in our breathing and heart rate, to feeling dizzy and experiencing muscle tension. These responses can and do support us when we experience a dangerous situation, however, when our bodies regularly go into a state of stress this can feel overwhelming, make you feel physically unwell and could impact your health in the longer term.
Stress is typically triggered by things which are happening in our life at present, this could be one central event or experience, or it could be the result of a build-up of pressures. A number of factors may influence how we experience different situations and how we experience stress including: our perception of the situation (which may be connected to our previous experiences); the number of other pressures we are experiencing at the time alongside the level of support we have at the time. It is important to remember that we are all different, therefore, we all experience stress differently and in different situations.
At times, it may feel challenging to identify what is causing us to feel stressed or to be able to identify and explain to others how we are feeling. We may at times be able to recognise right away when we’re feeling under stress or pressure, however, other times we may keep on going without recognising the signs or symptoms of stress. Alongside affecting us physically stress can also impact us emotionally and can influence the way we behave and respond within situations. Some of the signs that we may be experiencing stress may include:
Feeling anxious, nervous, or afraid
Racing thoughts or feeling unable to switch off
A feeling of dread
Feeling isolated or lonely
Feeling unable to enjoy or engage with activities
Lack of motivation or interest in activities
Avoiding situations which feel troubling to you
Feeling restless or feeling unable to sit still
Feeling unable to concentrate
Difficulties making decisions
Biting your nails
Eating more or less than usual
Smoking or drinking alcohol more than usual
Being tearful or crying
Feeling tired or having little energy
Indigestion or heartburn
Feeling sick or nauseous
Clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth
To support us in recognising or identifying when we may be experiencing stress it can be beneficial to check in with our bodies to identify how we’re feeling physically to try to identify any areas of stress or tension we may be holding. A body scan is a useful way of systematically bringing our awareness to different parts of the body, recognising, and identifying without judgement how each area feels in that moment. A body scan meditation can support us in re-integrating our mind and bodies and can support us in bringing awareness to our sense of self and wellbeing. If you wish to try a Body Scan meditation, please click here to be directed to my online recording. During the exercise please be mindful or any injuries you may have, you are encouraged to omit any muscle group if you experience any discomfort. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.
For more information and resources regarding Stress, please visit the Stress Management Society website which can be accessed here.
I hope you find this information beneficial, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.