April is stress awareness month, which provides an important opportunity to discuss one of the biggest mental health issues people face.
According to a report released in 2018 by the Mental Health Foundation, 74% of adults in the UK felt overwhelmed or unable to cope due to stress. One in six people self-harmed and one in three contemplated suicide. Around half of work days taken off in 2017/18 came about as a result of stress, anxiety or depression.
Over short periods of time, stress can have a positive effect in helping us to complete a task. However, prolonged periods of stress can lead to bigger issues such as burnout and even depression.
It’s therefore essential to try and keep stress in check where possible, and we’ve listed our top ten tips below.
1) Foster positive interactions. Listen to others, make them feel valued and reduce the risk of miscommunication whilst also boosting positive feelings.
2) Spend quality time with loved ones. Simple actions like giving someone a hug, or laughing with them can release stress busting hormones.
3) Exercise. Not only does exercise improve our health, it also releases endorphins which help reduce stress and anxiety. Swimming, running and even walking can help us overcome some of the effects of stress, resulting in improved sleep, concentration and self-confidence.
4) Avoid bad habits. When stress builds, it’s all too easy to turn to alcohol, unhealthy food, smoking or caffeine as a way of coping. However, these methods of dealing with stress are not effective over the long term and can instead create new problems.
5) Take control. By taking control, we feel a sense of empowerment and satisfaction. Conversely when we feel like we aren’t in control, it can be a major cause of stress and wellbeing issues.
6) Aim to be more grateful and positive. Research has shown that by noting down three things that make you grateful every day for three weeks, it’s possible to experience increased optimism for up to six months.
7) Accept what can’t be changed. Sometimes it’s not possible to change a difficult situation and you’re therefore better off focusing on things that you have some control over.
8) Help others. When we volunteer or do work in the community, it helps us become more resilient and therefore better able to cope with stress.
9) Make time for yourself. The UK has some of the longest working hours in Europe, meaning we have less time for ourselves and the things we enjoy. Even something as simple as setting aside a couple of nights a week can prove beneficial.
10) Don’t work harder, work smarter. Prioritise your workload, leaving the least important tasks for last and come to terms with the fact that your ‘to-do’ list will always have tasks on it.
In addition to these tips, Dr Tiffany Field, notes that when our skin moves through being touched or through exercise such as yoga, pressure receptors are stimulated and this slows down our heart rate, blood pressure and the release of cortisol – which gives people better control of their stress hormones. This is why touch based therapies, such as cuddle therapy and massage therapy can help us feel more relaxed.
To find out more about how touch could improve your overall wellbeing, visit our Benefits page. If you’d like to de-stress and unwind in the caring embrace of a trained and trusted cuddle practitioner, you can book a cuddle session online.