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Managing and reducing stress levels.

As many of us know, April 1st is known and celebrated internationally as April Fool’s Day, a day when it is considered socially acceptable to pull a prank on someone without any serious consequences.

Since 1992, April 1st also marks the start of Stress Awareness Month, a month which aims to increase the public’s knowledge of the causes and effects of stress, as well as provide helpful guidance on ways to manage and reduce stress.

Let’s begin …

Stress can be defined as ‘the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them’ – HSE UK website.

Causes

Stress may be work-related or non-work-related.

HSE UK have identified 6 principal causes of work-related stress:

  • Demands – e.g. multiple challenging tasks that all require urgent attention
  • Control – e.g. not being given the flexibility to complete tasks in a way which best suits them
  • Support – e.g. not receiving adequate support from colleagues and managers
  • Relationships – e.g. being bullied at work
  • Role – e.g. not receiving clear information on their role and responsibilities
  • Change – e.g. not being informed of organisational changes and how their job may be affected

Non-work-related stress may be caused by the following:

  • Health issues
  • Unexpected life events
  • Personal relationship issues
  • Financial issues

Effects

Stress can cause many emotional, mental, physical and behavioural changes in the human body.

Emotional changes: (Source: NHS UK website)

  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Self-esteem / self-worth issues
  • Feeling overwhelmed

Mental changes: (Source: NHS UK website)

  • Lack of concentration
  • Inability to make day-to-day decisions
  • Constant worrying
  • Racing thoughts

Physical changes: (Source: NHS UK website)

  • Insomnia
  • Constant tiredness
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Headaches
  • Muscular pain
  • Changes in eating habits (eating too much or too little)

Behavioural changes: (Source: NHS UK website)

  • Excessive drinking
  • Excessive smoking
  • Anger / irritability
  • Avoidance

Managing and reducing stress

I recently returned from a holiday to Cape Verde (or Cabo Verde as the locals say) where the islands’ life motto is ‘no stress’ – wouldn’t it be great if more people adopted this mindset? While I can attest that a holiday is an instant stress reliever, it is not always possible to drop everything and fly to warmer climes.

Here are some helpful tips to reduce stress: (Source: NHS UK website)

  • Exercise
  • Find the solution to the problem
  • Find a support network
  • Look after yourself
  • Learn a new skill or commit to a hobby
  • Avoid unhealthy habits and people
  • Learn to say 'NO!'
  • Volunteer
  • Manage your workload
  • Be positive
  • Concentrate on the things you can change
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