Knowing the signs and coping with stress

International Stress Awareness Day takes place on 1st November.

We all feel stress in our lives, however prolonged periods of stress can have a long lasting, harmful impact on our minds and bodies. In Great Britain in 2015/16, the number of working days lost due to stress-related illness was 11.7 million.

This International Stress Awareness Day, which takes place on Wednesday 1st November, we are encouraging local residents to be aware of the signs of stress and to consider simple coping techniques.

Dr Gisela Unsworth, Clinical Services Manager at Mind Matters Surrey, said: “Stress can manifest itself in many different ways. Someone who is stressed may notice a change in their mood and may feel more angry or depressed than usual. Often there are physical symptoms, such as disturbed sleep, appetite change or tension headaches. There may also be behavioural symptoms that occur as a result of stress, such as avoiding people/places, using substances such as alcohol or drugs or taking stress out on others.

“If left unchecked, stress can result in physical and mental health problems, ranging from high blood pressure and digestive problems to anxiety – so it’s important that it is addressed if it becomes unmanageable.”

If you feel like you are experiencing high levels of stress for a prolonged period, speak to your GP in the first instance. You can also self-refer to our Mind Matters Talking Therapies service, which provides short courses of psychological therapy for common mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. More information, including details of how people can self-refer, is at www.mindmattersnhs.co.uk/surrey.

Dr Unsworth continues: “Although we would always recommend speaking to a professional first, there are some useful techniques that a person can use to alleviate stress levels. Eating well and staying hydrated is extremely important. Often, someone’s sleep will suffer as a consequence of being stressed, and as a result it is tempting to eat foods that are high in sugar and energy. This may provide short term relief to fatigue, however in the long term eating unhealthily will have a negative impact on stress levels.

Exercise is another effective way of managing stress levels. Even if it is just taking the time to walk around the block, exercise can be a meditative process which releases endorphins, improves sleep and decreases tension levels.

“Finally, someone dealing with stress will benefit from taking some time to do the things they enjoy. This may sound simple, but it is often forgotten. This could involve seeing friends or even learning a new hobby, which creates a distraction from stress and can also help to boost mental wellbeing through progressive goal setting.

“We urge people to be aware of the signs of escalating stress and to take the necessary steps to make it manageable.”

International Stress Awareness Day, which is organised by the International Stress Management Association, aims to raise awareness about stress and stress prevention, as well as to promote the importance of wellbeing for individuals and organisations.