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Mental Health Awareness Week

by Laura Johnston

Knowing the signs to look out for and how you can help manage stress are important to ensure it doesn’t lead to illness or physical and emotional exhaustion.

When you are stressed you may behave differently – for example, you may become withdrawn, indecisive, unable to sleep, feel irritable or tearful, eating more or less or experiencing aches and pains, particularly muscle tension. Your breathing may become quicker, you may perspire more or have palpitations.

There are many factors that can cause stress – moving house, getting married or coping with bereavement can all cause stress. So too can problems such as unemployment, poor housing, noisy neighbours, relationship problems and difficulties at work.

If you’re feeling stressed, the first step to feeling better is to identify the cause. The key to good stress management is building your emotional strength, being in control of the situation and adopting a positive outlook.

Remember, if you are experiencing the signs of stress over a prolonged period, and feel they are affecting your everyday life or are making you feel unwell, you should speak to your GP.

Things you can do to address stress

  • Be active – exercise can help to have a positive impact on your mood. Suggestions on how to keep active can be found on the Healthy Knowsley website.
  • Take control – the act of taking control is in itself empowering, and it’s a crucial part of finding a solution that satisfies you and not someone else. Having a ‘to do’ list can help – it will help you to work out your priorities and timings.
  • Connect with people – a good support network of colleagues, friends and family can ease your troubles and help you see things in a different way. The activities we do with friends help us to relax. We often have a good laugh with them, which is an excellent stress reliever.
  • Have some ‘me time’ – We all need to take some time for socialising, relaxation or exercise.
  • Challenge yourself – setting yourself goals and challenges, whether at work or outside, such as learning a new language or a new sport, helps to build confidence. This will help you deal with stress.
  • Avoid unhealthy habits – don’t rely on alcohol, smoking and caffeine as your ways of coping. Over the long-term, they won’t solve your problems, but will create new ones.
  • Help other people – research shows that people who help others, through activities such as volunteering or community work, become more resilient. If you don’t have the time to volunteer, you could do a good deed such as helping someone with their shopping.
  • Work smarter, not harder – working smarter means prioritising your work, concentrating on the tasks that will make a real difference.
  • Try to be positive – look for the positives in life – try and take a glass half full instead of glass half empty approach.
  • Accept the things you can’t change – changing a difficult situation isn’t always possible. Try to concentrate on the things you do have control over.

Further information is available on the Mental Health Foundation website.