National Stress Awareness Month

Stress Levels Rising? Do you have a toolkit in place to help manage your stress?

How often have you felt stressed this month? How often have you felt a bit angsty? A bit meh? A bit something is up but you just can’t put your finger on it?

Are you monitoring your stress levels? 

April has been National Stress Awareness Month. That’s a whole month dedicated to raising awareness of stress – the causes and how we can combat the worry, the anxiety and all the feelings we have when our stress levels start to increase.

A recent study on stress has identified that 65% of people in the UK have felt more stressed since Covid restrictions began in March 2020 – no surprise there.

However it’s one thing knowing stress levels are rising but how often are we checking in on ourselves, checking our stress levels and importantly doing something about it. And crucially doing something about it when we’re not stressed.

There is a secret to wellbeing. There is a secret to managing our stress levels.

And it is…..the work has to start when you’re feeling okay. You have to put in the practice when life is okay, not when it starts to spiral. If you wait until it starts to spiral it’s harder to learn how to manage it. 

If you put into practice habits, routine and mindfulness that can help combat stress when you’re feeling good, it becomes easier to manage those stress levels when they start to rise and means you have a wellbeing toolkit in place ready to be utilised when anxiety starts to take hold. 

The three key causes for concerns during these bonkers times (as revealed by the study on stress) are feelings of disconnection, uncertainty and a worrying loss of control. Sound familiar. Completely normal feelings in times of a pandemic and a world where we’re all on tenterhooks waiting for the next rollercoaster of COVID.

So what can you realistically do?

1. Breathe

Our breath is the first line of defence when we are stressed. It can calm our entire system down. Simply breathe more slowly. Inhale slowly through the nose for four and exhale through the mouth for six.

2. Be Kind to yourself

The good work has to start with you – and the first thing that we need to do is be kind to ourselves. If we’re feeling a bit meh, acknowledge it, allow it and know that it will pass.

3. Commit to ourselves and look after ourselves

One of the most important things we can do – every single day. Put yourself first. Put the oxygen mask on yourself first before helping others. And make a promise to yourself that you are going to look after yourself. Whatever that is, fresh air, a cup of coffee, a work-out, reading a book. Make a pledge to look after you.

4. Connect

Reach out to your friends, your family. Social connection can lower anxiety and depression, help us regulate our emotions, lead to higher self-esteem and empathy, and actually improve our immune systems.

5. Be consistent. Don’t underestimate the power of a routine

Practice makes progression. Committing to yourself and practicing the all the things every single day that will help reduce the stress levels is key to managing anxiety.

6. Flood your brain with positive thoughts

And when it all gets a bit much, when negative Nora takes over, you have to work really hard to flood the brain with positive thoughts. To almost restart the super computer to realising what is good. Say thank you out loud to everything that is good – thank you to the blue sky, thank you to the blossom on the trees, thank you to the call from my mum….keep saying it – and the computer that is our brain will start to ring the register of gratitude.

Stress awareness doesn’t stop on the 30th April – it’s something we need to be mindful of every single day of every single month.

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About the Author

Sarah Knight