National Stress Awareness Month 2021

This month is National Stress Awareness Month 2021. Stress is one of the biggest contributors to poor mental health for people in the UK, and this issue has only become more prevalent during the coronavirus crisis. Today’s blog examines what stress is, what causes it, and looks at some of the steps you can take to de-stress and improve your mental wellbeing.


What is stress?

Stress is the body’s reaction to feeling threatened or under pressure. It’s a normal emotion which everyone will experience at some point in their lives. It can even be a positive emotion for some who use it as motivation to push themselves to achieve their goals. However, too much stress can have serious negative effects on people’s health.

Stress can make people suffer from sustained periods of bad mental health, becoming irritable, anxious, or angry. This can affect their relationships at work and at home, which in turn can make the situation worse and increase stress levels. Long periods of stress can cause significant problems for a person’s mental and physical wellbeing.


What causes stress?

There is not one single cause for stress. What makes an individual experience stress will depend on their personality, personal experience, and the situation they find themselves in. Let’s take a look at some of the most common causes of stress:

- Work life

Perhaps the most obvious place to experience stress is at work. Every job presents a unique set of challenges which have the potential to cause significant personal stress if allowed to get out of hand. This might involve having to work to tight deadlines or strict targets, work with challenging individuals, or having low job security. You don’t have to be at the top to be impacted by work stress. Every worker, no matter how senior they are, can experience it.

- Home life

Relationships with friends and family have a significant effect on people’s mental wellbeing. Having difficult relationships with those you live with can be incredibly stressful, especially if you have responsibilities as a carer or parent. Experiencing parental break-up as a parent or a child can also be extremely testing, as it presents many huge changes to home lives.

- Financial worries

Money is a major cause of stress as it can impact almost every aspect of your life. Struggling to pay bills or put food on the table can put you in an incredibly stressful mindset. Being out of employment, whether that is through recent or long-term unemployment, can put you in a constant state of worry about your finances.

- Health

Serious injury or illness can contribute towards stress as they significantly effect the way you can live your life. Depending on the nature of the illness, it may cause you to worry about your long-term health, returning to work, and your own mortality. Pregnancy or becoming a parent can also cause stress, for health or financial reasons.


What are the signs of stress?

There are many different signs that you struggling to cope with stress. Some of these signs include:

  • Being irritable, short-tempered, or easily wound-up
  • Feeling anxious
  • Being unable to enjoy life and losing your sense of humour
  • Feeling depressed
  • Having a sense of dread

Everybody reacts to stress in a different way. You need to be on the lookout for any persistent feelings which are not normal for you and impact your day-to-day happiness. It is really important that if these feelings persist, you contact your GP. Not treating these issues and hoping they will go away on their own will only make things worse.


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How does stress affect the body?

The effects of stress on the body are just as problematic as the mental toll it takes on people. There are a range of stress symptoms that people may feel if they have become overburdened with stress:

  • Stress headache
  • Chest pain
  • High blood pressure
  • Panic attacks
  • Feeling constantly tired or unable to sleep
  • Muscle tension

Similar to the effects on mental health, people will have different physical reactions to stress. It’s important to take notice of any health problems that are unusual for you and try to trace back what could possibly be causing them. If these issues are uncommon for you, or are affecting your quality of life, you should always make an appointment with your GP.


How to deal with stress

Just as there are many different stress symptoms and causes, there are many different methods of stress management. The NHS has set out their top 10 stress busters to help you find a way to reduce your stress levels.

  • Be active – Exercise is a proven way of reducing emotional intensity and improving your general mental health.
  • Take control – Actively looking for solutions to your problems, rather than hoping they will just go away, can help address the underlying issues and create a sense of self-belief and empowerment.
  • Connect with people – Having a good network of family and friends can help you gain a different perspective on your current situation and help you relax.
  • Have some ‘me time’ – It’s important for your mental health to spend time away from work doing things you really enjoy.
  • Challenge yourself - Setting yourself goals and challenges, such as learning a new language or a new sport, helps to build confidence. This will help you deal with stress.
  • Avoid unhealthy habits – Becoming reliant on alcohol, smoking or caffeine is not a useful way to overcome stress in the long term. They may provide temporary stress relief, but will not solve the underlying issues and can cause significant health problems.
  • Help other people – Helping others, through voluntary or community work, can help you become more resilient and feel better about yourself.
  • Work smarter, not harder – Being able to prioritise and manage time efficiently can be crucial to avoiding undue stress. Focus on the most important and time sensitive tasks first before moving on to other work.
  • Try to be positive – In times of stress, try to remember the things you are thankful for in life.
  • Accept the things you can’t change – You can easily get stressed over things that are beyond your control. Try to focus on the things that you can change, rather than those you can do nothing about.

You can find many more useful tips to help you deal with stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems by reading our blog ‘Tips and Tools to Help You Manage Your Mental Health’.


When is stress awareness month?

National Stress Awareness month is an annual event that takes place every April. This campaign aims to increase the public’s awareness of the dangers of stress, and start a wider conversation in society about how it can impact people's lives.

Combating stress has never been more important. Since the start of the Covid-19 restrictions in March 2020, 65% of people in Britain say they have experienced increased stress levels. The pandemic and the disruption it’s caused has led to more people feeling disconnected and worried about the future.

You can find out more about how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected people’s mental health in our blog ‘Mental Health During the Coronavirus Crisis’.


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How to get time off work for stress and anxiety

If you are experiencing stress at work, it’s always best to try and speak to your manager, a member of HR, or a union representative. Having an honest and open dialog about your workload and the stress you are experiencing can help you come up with practical solutions for addressing work-related stress. This is a win-win for you and your employer; if you address the problems before they become too severe, it reduces the likelihood of you having to take time off, and can improve the quality of your work.

If you do not feel this is practical, or you are continuing to experience stress which is affecting your quality of life, speak to your GP. Your GP can provide support, guidance and resources to help you manage your stress. Taking a break from work is sometimes necessary for people to de-stress and look after their mental health. GPs will be able to provide you with a sickness note if they believe time away from work is necessary to protect your mental wellbeing.


Stress management courses

At ESS, we provide multiple different training options to help you and your co-workers manage your stress.

Our Building Resilience for the Workforce course is a half-day course which helps teams and individuals improve their communication skills and strengthen their inter-personal relationships in order to develop increased resilience in the workplace. This will help employers and employees develop the ability to manage their stress levels, improving productivity and reducing the chances of sickness in the process.

We also provide our Stress Management e-learning course. This training, delivered entirely online through our dedicated e-learning platform, goes into more depth about the causes and symptoms of stress. This course will also introduce more ways to help reduce the risk of you or those around you suffering from stress.

In addition, we also provide a number of courses which relate to the management of mental health in the workplace. These include:

Find out more about how mental health first aid can help support your workers and colleagues by reading our blog Time to Talk: Why Mental Health First Aid is Vital in Any Workplace.

If you would like to speak a member of our team about our services, why not call us on 0115 8970 529. You can also contact us over by email at training@essentialsiteskills.com.