April is stress awareness month and so todays MHM is all about stress – causes, signs and symptoms and what you can do if you are struggling with stress.
Stress can have a number of causes. Sometimes it can be a big event or situation such as a break up or moving house and sometimes, it is a build up of lots of smaller things. Chronically ill people can face stress for a number of reasons from the financial instability you face, the uncertainty that chronic conditions can biting and the changes a diagnosis can bring to your life.
So what is stress? Stress is a reaction to us being under pressure or feeling threatened. Stress can be helpful when it comes in small doses – helping to motivate us to complete tasks for example, but when it lasts a long time or is due to a massive life event it can cause both physical and mental symptoms that impact on your every day life.
A stressful event will create a release of a hormone called cortisol, by the hypothalamus, through the adrenal glands, into the blood stream. Your blood sugar increases and adrenaline causes a more rapid heart rate. It takes your body’s metabolism around an hour and a half to return to it’s normal state following a stressful event. However, when you have chronic stress, at a lower level, but over a longer period of time, this can have life-long health implications. Chronic stress is more challenging than acute stress, as the continual source of stress does
not allow the body a chance to correct itself and return to normal functioning.
You might feel:
Physical manifestations include:
How stress can make you behave:
Be kind ton yourself and take time to rest. Try out different relaxation techniques such as meditation – I love the Headspace app for this. Get out into nature and take a walk. Spend time on your hobbies – doing things you enjoy can give you a break from a stressful situation.
Take care of your physical health
For a long time, it was believed that sleep deprivation was a symptom of stress.
Recently, studies are showing that perhaps it is the opposite: sleep deprivation causes stress. During REM sleep, the stage of sleep where dreams happen, it’s been found that levels of norepinephrine and cortisol decrease. Essentially, more time spent in the REM stage of sleep will reduce stress. Develop good sleep habits that include a routine bedtime with tranquil, meditative exercises to increase REM sleep. From The Science Behind Stress and How to Relieve the Symptoms
Exercising regularly and eating a healthy, balanced diet can be hard to do when you are under stress but both will help the symptoms easier to manage.
Build your support network
Talking to friends and family can make a huge difference – whether they can help with the situation, or just be someone you can talk to, both can help ease your stress.
Workplaces, universities, colleges and schools can also provide support for your mental health and stress. Reach out to your manager, tutor, HR or student services.
Work out your triggers
Knowing what your triggers are can help you be prepared. You may be able to avoid these situations, but even if you can’t – being prepared may make them easier to deal with.
Tae some time to think about what your triggers might be – situations that arise often (such as medical appointments), situations you are worried you will find yourself in again and one-off events that can bring about huge levels of stress (such as moving house).
As always, if you are struggling with your mental health, please speak to a professional. My post – Where Can I Find Support For My Mental Health – lists a huge range of different places you can seek help.
Have a great week,