What springs to mind when you think about the month of April? Flowers beginning to bloom? The smell of freshly cut grass? Lambs, butterflies and buzzy bees?

There is also something hugely important going on in April, Stress Awareness. Stress Awareness Month has taken place every April since 1992 and seems more crucial than ever in light of the most challenging two years we have all faced.

What is stress?

An unhealthy amount of stress can have a debilitating effect on our sleep, mood, energy levels, performance and personal relationships. Eventually, it can even lead to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. As we live in a society that can be extremely performance-focused, we want to support people with ways to cope with stress and reduce the stigma around it.

Stress is our body’s response to pressure and there are many different factors that can trigger stress. We can often feel stressed when we experience something new, unexpected, under pressure, or when we feel we have little control over a situation. In some circumstances, stress can be helpful… for example, if you’ve got a big presentation at work, or you’re performing on stage, a healthy amount of stress will help to motivate you and help you do well. However, stress becomes an issue when you begin to feel overwhelmed and as though you’ve lost control of your life.

Everyone deals with stress in different ways, stress is not a weakness and no one should feel like they will be judged if they admit they are feeling overwhelmed or struggling to deal with stress.

Signs of stress?

  • Feeling anxious, scared, angry, sad, irritable, frustrated or depressed
  • Headaches, nausea, indigestion, digestive problems, hyperventilating, sweating, heart palpitations, aches and pains

Ways to reduce stress

Recognising stress and its causes and taking the necessary steps to look after your wellbeing can help you deal with pressure, and reduce the impact that stress has on your life.

There are a number of ways you can lessen the impact of stress on your mind and body.

Maintain a balanced diet

When we are busy and overwhelmed, one of the first things we stop focusing our time and energy on is the food we eat. However, food has a huge impact on our energy levels and mood, so getting enough nutrients and water is key to helping our overall wellbeing.

Be active

Moving your body in a way that is suited to you helps to relieve stress by producing endorphins that boost your mood, even just for 15 minutes. Take a walk, go to the gym, or have a dance to your favourite playlist. Do whatever makes you feel good!

Connect with others

Talking to family, friends and colleagues can help ease the feeling of being overwhelmed and let us view matters in a different light. Taking part in activities can also help us feel relaxed and we often have a good laugh… which is a perfect way to relieve stress!

Schedule self-care moments

Take time for yourself, we all need to take some time out for ourselves to recharge our batteries and feel good. Maybe you get a new lease of life after a hair appointment, maybe a long bath does the trick, or maybe you just want a couple of hours to yourself to watch TV or read. No matter what it is that helps you make sure these moments are part of your daily or weekly schedule.

Meditation or breathing exercises

You don’t have to be a yoga guru to reap the benefits of meditation and breathing exercises. Having a daily routine where you focus on your breathing and carry out some mindful exercises for a few minutes can have a positive effect on your mood (doing this before bed will also help your sleeping pattern).

Online resources for support:

Stress Management Society:
https://www.stress.org.uk/what-is-stress/

Mind
https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/stress/what-is-stress/

Mental Health Foundation:
https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/explore-mental-health/a-z-topics/stress