Keep stress at bay with this advice

Keep stress at bay with this advice

National Stress Awareness Day - a day dedicated to raising awareness of the impact stress can have on both mental health and society as a whole.

According to the HSE, around half a million people in the UK are diagnosed as suffering from work related stress, and a whopping 10.4 million working days are lost each year due to 'stress, depression and anxiety'. 

Dr Tom Stevens, Consultant Psychiatrist at London Bridge Hospital shares some knowledge about stress. 

What is 'stress'? How is it defined? 

Stress is the response to challenging situations and demands which push the body and mind to the limit. It is poorly defined. 

What do you consider to be the top five leading causes of stress in the UK?

I believe most 'mental' stress today in urban societies is a result of the rise in complex human communication we encounter and the associated demands on our brains as opposed to the rest of our body. Stress can be difficult to measure and these in my opinion are the leading causes:

1. More complicated relationships from social media, mobile telephones and email.

2. Fewer trusting relationships with co-workers, family and friends, due to constant change in where and how we live.

3. Jobs with shorter contracts, less certainty and more competition.

4. Rapid change in job roles with demands to up skill and re-train.

5. Difficulties finding accommodation from increasing population and greater competition for land. 

How can suffering from stress affect your ability to function at work or in everyday life? 

The most common initial symptoms of stress are fatigue, sleep disturbance and mood swings. With more enduring stress and unresolved stress, mental disorders such as depression can become a problem and your ability to work and function start to suffer. 

A study from Kalms revealed the top three things that are most likely to cause stress, these include moving house, having a baby and planning a wedding. 

So what is it that makes these events so stressful?

Moving House

When it comes to moving house, worry concerning finances and anxiety over selling an existing house were identified as the top two catalysts for stress, with over half the nation selecting these specific elements as the most challenging. Organising the legalities of moving house also proves problematic for 50% of those surveyed, as dealing with the solicitor, paper work and sorting surveys were identified as the third most stressful aspect of changing homes.

The research also reveals that moving doesn’t get any easier as we get older, with 75% of the 45 plus age group stating that packing up belongings and leaving memories behind is primary stress trigger.

Having a Baby

For 48% of parents to be, lack of sleep is the biggest worry, whilst 42% experience nervousness about being a good parent and 40% have doubts over being able to afford everything a baby needs.

Body changes and pain of birth are key areas of concern for women, whilst almost a quarter of men’s triggers for stress centre around changing lifestyles and 38% worry about not getting enough sleep to function whilst at work.

For over a third of 35-44 year olds, having baby is considered the most stressful life event, perhaps reflecting the current trend in becoming parents for the first time aged over 35. 

Planning a Wedding

Interestingly and surprisingly, men find wedding planning more stressful than women, with 23% of men stating that weddings are the most stressful life event, compared to 16% of women. Deciding who to include on guest list was at the root of wedding stress, with nearly half of those surveyed stating that deciding who to invite is the most difficult element of planning the occasion.

Keeping within budget was pin pointed as the second most stressful aspect of getting married, whilst keeping everyone happy came third with 35% of people worrying more about other people than themselves on the run up to their big day. Interfering mother in laws and overbearing family members were also highlighted as creating more chaos than calm.

As a result of the strain generated by wedding planning, a third of those surveyed reported that they felt stressed and anxious. A quarter experienced a loss of sleep and 18% of the nation admitted that the stress caused them to argue with their partner. In addition, women in particular were prone to comfort eating and bursting into tears on the run up to their big day.

Sophia Davis, one of the UK’s leading transformational life coaches, said: “Our society has massive fears surrounding money after what, for some, has seemed like a never-ending 'recession' and the results of the Kalms Annual Stress Report highlight the high levels of stress some people are under.

“‎We have become increasingly aware of the security that seems to be connected to our homes because we are so afraid of loss, and have been made so aware of how many people have experienced it over recent years.

“A good friend, coach or counsellor can help you to regain perspective on your situation and allow you to restore your belief in yourself to overcome your challenges and turn them into opportunities. Herbal remedies can also help during times of stress.” 

Dr Chris Idzikowski, Director of the Edinburgh Sleep Clinic comments: “I often hear people saying they can’t sleep because they are stressed, which is unsurprising because when your stress levels are high it can cause sleeplessness. I advise my clients to try and work out what it is that is causing them to worry and imagine putting the issue away in a box or physically letting it go. Being anxious before bed can result in troubled sleep which, on a continual basis, can lead to problems such as depression. If you can’t deal with the problem in real life, dealing with it mentally can help improve the chance of drifting off. Temporary sleep aids can be beneficial if you are still struggling to get back into a healthy sleep routine.”

Temporary sleep aids: Nytol-One-A-Night is a clinically proven night time sleep aid which can help you drift off into a natural sleep so you wake up feeling refreshed in the morning. Nytol One-A-Night helps people with temporary sleep problems fall into a restful sleep. 

And finally we have some stress-busting tips to help you cope too. 

Simple Psychologist Dr Christine Bundy helps with her top five stress busting tips:

1)       Find the positive zone: don’t dwell in the doldrums. Try to focus on one new positive thing every day and screen out the negative. It doesn’t matter how small so long as it’s a positive goal

2)       Occupy the moment: focus your attention on the ‘here and now’ and take in the sights, sounds, smells and colours around you. If you are sitting on the bus, take in the things around you. By doing this you are practising channelling your attention and this can help to control your thoughts so that you are thinking in a more positive way. Remember that controlling your thoughts is the success to controlling how you feel

3)       Let nature improve your mood: a brisk 10 minute walk each day can lift your spirits. So many of us spend so much time chained to our desks but it really is important to get out, clear your head and put your worries into perspective

4)       Fear of failure: we can all suffer from a crisis of confidence and stress about our failures rather than trying to work on our strengths. Try to look forward and focus on what you want to achieve and not what you aren’t good or can’t do at and be realistic with your goals

5)       Fake it until you make it: you may not feel like it but a smile is the easiest way to help boost our mood which in turn helps alleviate stress 

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