Stress and The Effect on Our Mental Health

Thursday 3rd May 2018 by Kelly Skipper

85% of the UK population experience stress regularly and whether the stress is caused by money, work or relationship issues, it has a huge and detrimental effect on our physical and mental health.  UK Charity The Mental Health Organisation has chosen stress as its main focus for their annual Mental Health Awareness Week which takes place on 11th - 20th May this year and whilst here at glo we are also in the business of helping our clients to de-stress we thought we would put a blog together which outlines some of the interesting facts and effects of stress on our mental health as well as some useful tips on how to help combat it.  We hope you find it useful:

Stress - The Facts

The biggest causes of stress are money, work, health, family and economic outlook - as well as heartbreak (yes a broken heart can cause an immense amount of stress)

Women appear more prone to stress then men with money their main concern (its work for men) and whilst women are likely to watch TV to help de-stress, men like to go for a walk.  18-24 year olds on the other hand will listen to music to help ease the tension. 

Geographically, certain areas of the country suffer more with stress than others with the lovely folks in Northern Ireland the most effected whilst the laid-back North East are least effected. 

12.5 million working days were lost due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2016/17

Stress - The Effects

Physical stress may be the result of too much to do, not enough sleep, a poor diet or the effects of an illness,  however stress can also be mental: when you worry about money, a loved one’s illness, retirement, or experience an emotionally devastating event, such as the death in the family or being fired from work and frustratingly both physical and mental symptoms are not always obvious to us. In response to these daily strains  the body automatically increases blood pressure, heart rate, respiration, metabolism, and blood flow to the muscles. This response, is intended to help the  body react quickly and effectively to a high-pressure situation.

Stress is known to be the main cause for various sleep disorders, including insomnia but it can also cause backaches or headaches, and can contribute to potentially life-threatening diseases like high blood pressure and heart disease. As well as the physical effects it has on the body  it also contributes to the way we behave and our mood.  Anxiety, restlessness, irritability, lack of focus, sadness and depression can be experienced whilst we may encounter over eating/under eating, angry outbursts, drugs / alcohol abuse and social withdrawal. 

Either way it doesnt paint a pretty picture.  So read on to find some handy hints on how to help:

Stress - How To Combat It

MIndfulness for mental health
De-clutter your life
- Its easy to become so weighed down by too much "stuff" and having a good clear out at home of excess junk can also help the mind become mentally free. 

Focus on Sleep -
If you think you’re one of the many people who isn’t getting enough sleep, make an effort to increase the length of time you sleep and improve your sleep quality. Going to bed earlier is a great start (try setting a bedtime alarm to remind you) but it’s also helpful to start winding down in the evenings well before bedtime with a relaxing evening routine. Smartphones and other electronic devices can also have a negative impact on sleep quality – ban them from the bedroom and make it one of your resolutions to stop using your phone at least an hour before bedtime.

Start a Meditation and Mindfulness Habit - Meditation is an easy way to improve your mental health -  even five minutes of meditation a day can make a big difference.  Mindfulness meditation (a type of meditation where you focus on the current moment instead of dwelling on the past or stressing about the future) has been shown to be helpful for those dealing with anxiety, depression, and stress.  

Eat Better - Its a proven fact that people who consume more fruits and vegetables have lower levels of depression than those who eat less fruit and vegetables. Nutritional improvements over time (a balance of vegetables, fruits, grains and proteins) can improve your mental health and quality of life and eating leafy greens and vegetables in the broccoli family (cabbage, cauliflower, kale) is also key.

Get Moving -  Physical and mental health work hand in hand  and the mind and body should not be considered separate entities. Exercise causes the body to release feel-good chemicals into the bloodstream, which provide an instant mood boost. Something as simple as a ten-minute walk can help to get those endorphins flowing. Exercising outdoors, also gives an extra mental health boost  from spending time in nature.

New Hobbies - Focus on taking up a new hobby or activity.  Join a new class or group.  Making new social connections improves mental health and helps reduce depression and anxiety. Start a gratitude journal.   Starting a daily habit of writing down things you are grateful for helps boost your mental wellbeing. Finally if time is tight and you dont want to take on any new hobbies, then buy yourself an adult colouring book.  Guaranteed to reduce phone and TV screen time and will help you de-stress.

Keep your eyes peeled for other Mental Health-related blogs next week.