Last month Mental Health Awareness Week took place, but the campaign to raise awareness of mental health and related conditions continues all year round. The focus for this year is on stress.
Research has shown that two thirds of us experience a mental health problem in our lifetime; while stress isn’t a mental health problem in itself, it can lead to depression and anxiety, and even self-harm and suicide.
To mark this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week, Anxiety UK, the UK’s leading anxiety, stress and anxiety-based depression charity, launched its own stress test, asking visitors to their website if they are experiencing any of the common symptoms. 838 people responded; 64% feel overwhelmed by everyday tasks and 68% are living with symptoms such as agitation and worry, bloating and headaches.
Understanding the problem
Anxiety UK clinical advisor Professor Sir Cary L. Cooper, CBE from the Manchester Business School, University of Manchester, says: “It’s important to recognise the level of stress you are experiencing, but of course it’s even more important to really get to the root of the problem and understand the underlying source of the stress and take measures to address it.
“That may require professional medical help from your GP, or you may find a course of counselling beneficial to tackle it longer term.”
According to 70% of over 1,000 health and safety representatives responding to a TUC study undertaken in 2016, stress is the top health and safety concern in UK workplaces; the Health and Safety Executive report that in 2016/17, 12.5 million working days were lost due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety.
However, stress is not isolated to the workplace and can affect people from all ages, backgrounds and regions; it is widespread. Research in 2018 from UK digital health company, Forth, found that 85% of adults are experiencing stress regularly and common causes include lack of sleep and money and health concerns, as well as work.
Stress can affect how you feel, think, behave and how your body works. Symptoms of stress may include: sleeping problems, sweating, loss of appetite, difficulty concentrating, feeling anxious, irritable or low in self-esteem. Some people also experience headaches, muscle tension or pain, or dizziness.
It is important to be aware and recognise these symptoms in yourself and those close to you so that you can seek help and develop strategies to help cope with stress and minimise symptoms.
Anxiety UK offers lots of support to those living with stress, to help them understand and eventually overcome and manage the uncomfortable symptoms. Nicky Lidbetter, Chief Executive of the charity, says:
“The results of our stress test are not a surprise, however there is more help available than ever to those whose symptoms are impacting their day to day lives. Talking to your GP can be a really useful initial step, and our website signposts people to the wide range of therapies that Anxiety UK offers.”
People living with stress must find the route and support that works for them. Anxiety UK offers access to a wide range of self-help resources, long term support options such as reduced cost self-referral to a range of talking therapies accredited by the Royal College of Psychiatrists, and much more.
The NHS offer advice on how to combat stress at: www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/reduce-stress/