This week is Mental Health Awareness Week and this year there has been a focus on stress. The Mental Health Foundation website says: Information on how many people in the UK population as a whole are affected by stress is very limited. However, our new survey found that over the past year, almost three quarters (74%) of people have at some point felt so stressed that they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope. The survey, commissioned by the Mental Health Foundation and undertaken by YouGov, polled 4,169 adults in the UK in 2018 (www.mentalhealth.org.uk).

Stress affects not only our mental health but our physical health too. There are a lot of health problems (long term and short term) which are linked to stress, such as; Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Cardiovascular Disease, Gastrointestinal System and affects our Immune System too, making it harder for us to fight off infections and short illnesses.

Adam Ball, Occupational Therapist for SIL and Tom Burston, Student Occupational Therapist for SIL have gave us some tips on how we can manage stress better within our daily lives:

Tip 1. Exercise: Exercising can help with stress, even if it’s a short walk or walking up the stairs instead of taking the lift. It will increase your mood and overall make you feel better.

Tip 2. Healthy Eating: Eating a healthy, balanced diet can help with stress management and improve your quality of life. If you eat good foods, you’re likely to feel good. Have a look at the NHS Choices article on eating healthy on a budget here.

Tip 3. Hobbies: There are many activities we can do in our spare time that can reduce stress and benefit our mental well-being. Find a hobby that you enjoy, this could be fishing, playing a sport, joining an exercise group, cooking or painting.

Tip 4. Talk about it: Talking to someone when you’re feeling stressed can do you so much good. It doesn’t have to be a professional, it could be someone you trust such as a friend, family member, colleague or neighbour.

Tip 5. Meditation and Mindfulness: There are many ways we can practice meditation and mindfulness, such as mindfulness classes, yoga, using adult coloring books, download an app which teaches guided meditation, or even simply spend 10 minutes each morning and evening having some quiet time and practicing breathing control.

Tip 6. Sleep: Getting a good night’s sleep will benefit your overall health and well-being. The NHS recommends between six and nine hours sleep per night and they also recommend we stick to regular sleeping hours. If you go to https://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/insomnia/Pages/bedtimeritual.aspx you can do a self-sleep assessment to understand your personal sleeping pattern and ways you can improve your sleep quality.

Tip 7. Talk to your GP: If stress is becoming unmanageable and affecting your mental and physical well-being in your daily life then please go and see your GP.

Tip 8. Re-evaluate your values/priorities in life: Take some time to view what you value most in your life and to try and live towards your values and take some time to do the things that matter the most to you in order to allow you to live a more fulfilling/meaningful life.

Tip 9. Establishing a work/life balance: Try to establish a healthy work/life balance that feels right for you. The latest research proposes that individuals who often work long hours over their allocated work times are often more stressed, find it difficult to relax and switch off from work and their productivity often decreases. Establishing a healthy work/life balance can enable you to feel more energised within your job, give you greater job satisfaction and allow for greater productivity.

Tip 10. Learning to relax: In today’s society the majority of people lead very busy lives and can often find it difficult to relax, therefore taking the time to slow down and engage in activities you find relaxing e.g. Yoga, taking a bath, reading etc. can vastly help with reducing levels of stress.

Tip 11. Having fun: There is significant research available highlighting the importance of having fun and laughter in your life to reduce feelings of stress. A famous poet once quoted “There is not one shred of evidence that’s says that life was meant to be serious – lighten up and have some fun”.

When it comes to managing stress, there is no one size fits all approach, you need to explore different methods and find what works for you. If you’re struggling with stress in your life at the moment and would like more information on help please read the booklet available to download at the bottom of the page created by the Mental Health Foundation.