Today [5 November] is National Stress Awareness Day and the Public Health Agency (PHA) is encouraging people to take practical steps to deal with stress they may be experiencing.
A certain amount of stress is a normal part of everyday living. However, stress is often referred to as the feeling of being under too much mental or emotional pressure. It can affect anyone and can be caused by lots of things in life such as work, relationships and money worries. The theme of this year’s awareness day is ‘Stress: the balancing act’.
Madeline Heaney, Regional Lead for Mental Health Promotion with the PHA, said that pressure turns into stress when you feel unable to cope. “People will react differently to stress; a situation which may be stressful to one person may be motivating to another.
“When you feel stressed, it can get in the way of solving problems, or can even affect everything you do.”
Stress can have an effect on how you feel, think, behave and on how your body works. Common signs of stress include sleeping problems, sweating, loss of appetite and difficulty concentrating. You may feel anxious, irritable or have low self-esteem. You may also experience headaches, muscle tension or pain, or dizziness.
Stress is not an illness itself, but it can cause serious illness if it isn’t addressed.
“It’s important to recognise the early warning signs,” said Madeline.
“Recognising the symptoms of stress will help you figure out ways of coping and save you from using unhealthy coping methods, such as drinking or smoking. Trying to ignore stress usually makes things worse; facing up to problems will actually reduce stress.”
There is usually little you can do to prevent stress, but there are many things you can do to help to get the balance right and manage stress more effectively.
Practical positive steps for dealing with stress:
• Learn how to relax – taking a break from your hectic life, even a small one, can help stop stress building up;
• Eat well – if we are stressed it’s more important than ever to eat well, otherwise it’s like a car running on empty;
• Take regular exercise – being active is good for us, so take a stroll, get out with the kids or with friends, or take the dog for a walk;
• Talk to someone – you don’t have to deal with everything on your own. Talking about your feelings can be the first step to dealing with things;
• Work through your problems – taking steps to deal with your problems will make you better able to cope with them.
The PHA’s booklet ‘Steps to deal with stress’ which includes lots of practical ways of dealing with stress is available at www.mindingyourhead.info The Minding Your Head website also includes a directory of mental health services in Northern Ireland.
Public Health Agency
Linenhall Street Unit
12-22 Linenhall Street
Tel: 0300 555 0114