April is known as Stress Awareness month in the UK. However, stress can happen to us all. It is something very real and something we should all be aware of.
Many people suffer stress but accept is as being a normal part of every-day, modern life. In fact, it is not, and should be addressed as it can cause other health problems. Medication helps regulate stress levels but does not look for the reason causing the stress in the first place. There are many ways to help alleviate stress, but if you are concerned, it is always best to consult a doctor.
The effects of Covid on stress
Pre-covid stress figures show Spain as being one the countries with the least amount of long term anxiety sufferers. The UK showed 12.2 million adults whereas Spain showed 4.5 million. Of these 4.5 million, women were 3 times more than men. Since Covid, these figures have understandably increased. And Spain is now reported to be second country in Europe regarding the amount of people suffering stress, depression, and anxiety.
Daily life and routines have changed. People have been confined to home. Often small apartments with no real outdoor space. There have been financial pressures and worries about getting ill. Working from home and home schooling have also contributed as well as those with no job or on an ERTE scheme. Loneliness and restrictions on visiting friends and family also played a large part.
Stress can sometimes creep up on us and we may feel overwhelmed, unable to cope with sometimes the simplest of tasks. It can make you feel disconnected or not in control. You many even doubt your decision making or lack confidence.
Linked to physical health problems
Millions of us experience high levels of stress and as such it is a significant factor in mental health problems including anxiety and depression. Additionally, it is linked to physical health problems like heart disease, problems with our immune system, insomnia, and digestive problems. Therefore, stress awareness is essential. Moreover, it is important for us to understand what is causing the stress and learn what steps we can take to reduce it.
Start the day off well. Try some yoga, breathing exercises or some meditation. Or simply write down 3 things that you are grateful for. Have a good healthy breakfast.
Working from home
Many of us are working from home now. And as such, it is good practise to take regular breaks away from the laptop. There are even apps you can use to ensure you do not spend too long on a task. Do a little gardening, make a coffee (although not too often as caffeine overload can contribute to stress). Take the dog for a walk or do a short exercise. If you don´t have time, even a quick 10–15-minute aerobic exercise can help. It has been known to release “feel good” endorphins. These are your body´s natural pain killers.
Exercise is one of the most important things you can do to combat stress. It might seem contradictory but putting physical stress on your body through exercise can also help to relieve mental stress. Benefits can be long term especially if you exercise on a regular basis. Not only will this help your stress levels but can also help with confidence and sleep.
If possible, dedicate some time just for you each day. Treat yourself to a nice relaxing bubble bath, or an aromatherapy massage. Aromatherapy can help lower anxiety and stress. Light a candle or use essential oils to benefit from their calming scents. This can also help with sleep.
Dance and sing like no-one is watching
It may seem obvious, but dancing, singing, and laughing as well as kissing, cuddling and intimate acts are all amazing stress relievers. Dance and sing like no-one is watching. If someone is watching, they can either join in or laugh with you. Loose yourself in a trashy novel or magazine or something with a compelling storyline. Or just curl up and watch a funny movie.
All too often, we put demands on ourselves which can lead to stress. Don´t set unrealistic goals, and remember, it is OK to say no! Writing a journal can also help when you are feeling stressed. It can take the attention away from the situation and may help you discover what triggered the anxiety. It can also help you focus on the positive especially if you use it to also list the things you are grateful for each day.
Praise yourself! Remember all the amazing things you have achieved and thank yourself. Try not to bottle things up. Talk to someone, they might be able to help. Even just listening will be a help.
Our diet and lifestyle also play a big part on the stresses. Although at the time drinking alcohol and smoking may feel like it is calming and reducing stress, but it can have the opposite effect. High quantities of caffeine can also increase stress and anxiety. However, people’s sensitivity to caffeine can vary greatly. A healthy balanced diet with everything in moderation is always best.