Stress can help alert us to danger or ensure we are kept safe. However, too much stress can harm our mental and physical health. It is Stress Awareness Week, and this year’s theme is “Beyond Stress Management: From Stigma to Solutions”. In this blog post, we want to give you a clear overview of what stress is, who experiences it, and how you can manage its impact.
What is stress, and who experiences it?
Stress is defined as a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances. It can be experienced by individuals, groups, or communities, and it often occurs when we face a situation we feel we can’t overcome or control.
A majority of “74% of UK adults have felt so stressed at some point over the last year they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope.”  However, stress is not experienced the same way by the whole population. Women were more likely to experience higher rates of stress than men, and the younger generation (Generation Z) experienced more stress than people aged 55 and over (Baby Boomers). 
How is stress and mental health connected?
Although stress itself is not classed as a mental health condition, it is connected to our mental health in a range of ways. If you experience lots of stress, it can develop into depression or anxiety. A particularly traumatic experience may lead to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). If you have a diagnosed mental health condition, managing this daily can also cause stress.
There are unhealthy coping strategies which people may adopt when they find situations stressful. This can include the use of recreational drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, or unhealthy food consumption. All of which can lead to more stress in the long run. However, there are ways you can healthily cope with stress.
Healthy ways to manage stress
During the last year, we posted on our social media channels for #WellbeingWednesday, and we asked our staff and Lived Experience Advisory Group about the ways they look after their wellbeing. Here are some of the activities they did to de-stress:
- Planning trips or activities to look forward to.
- Using meditation to relax.
- Giving yourself the time to have rest days.
- Watching movies.
- Limiting digital screen time and getting creative.
- Spending time outside in nature.
Experiencing stigma from others due to your reaction to or the impact of stress on your life, despite recent progress, can still exist. But there are solutions to help you reduce the stigma which can surround stress and other concerns. To reduce the stigma surrounding stress and mental health, it’s vital to educate people about stress and raise awareness about the impact it can have on people’s lives. This can be done by discussing your mental health with people you trust, showing them reliable information about stress, or getting involved in a campaign to raise awareness more widely. It’s also important for people who may be struggling to know they are not alone and that help is available when they need it. There are a range of mental health organisations which can offer you advice and support for stress and several other mental health concerns. Find a full list of contacts on our support page.