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  • Writer's pictureSara Hemsley Therapy

Stress Awareness Month

Updated: Apr 3

“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.” - Anne Lamott

Most, if not all of us are familiar with the term 'stress'. The World Health Organisation defines it as "a state of worry or mental tension caused by a difficult situation". It is a normal response to stimuli that threatens our wellbeing. Different stimuli will provoke different levels of stress, but just because one person may respond to a type of stress one way, does not mean everyone will or should.

Stress on the whole is seen as a bad thing, but the response evolved as a way to protect ourselves. For example, our ancestors would experience a stress response when faced with a predator and react accordingly - fight, flight or freeze.

April is Stress Awareness Month, and it's important for us to be aware of the impact stress has on our lives, and what we can do to help manage this.

Signs of stress

When presented with a threat, our body produces stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. Our heart beats faster, our blood pressure goes up and our energy and alertness increases.

Normally, after a perceived threat passes, these hormone levels go back to normal. However, if stressors are constant stress hormones will remain high. An example of stressors could be an impending deadline that feels impossible to meet, or a living situation that threatens our peace or wellbeing.

Over time, this could lead to increased anxiety, headaches, muscle pain, sleep issues/tiredness, weight gain, issues with memory/focus, depression, digestive issues, burnout and even heart issues if stressors aren't addressed in the long-term.

What helps with stress?

There are ways to manage the stress in our lives, often depending on the type of stressor. Here are some changes you can make that will help with stress:

  • Diet - Making sure you have a balanced diet, eating regularly throughout the day and not being tempted to skip your lunch break when the work is building up!

  • Getting enough sleep - Easier said than done sometimes, I understand. It can take time to build a routine around sleep, especially if it feels you haven't gotten enough done in the day. Sometimes it's better to get some rest and try again in the morning rather than producing less efficient work whilst you're running on fumes.

  • Going outside - Like many of us found during lockdown, going out for a walk or being in nature can be healing. It's a time to ground ourselves and be present and forget about our responsibilities for the moment. Having a break can help us be more energised when we return to our responsibilities.

  • Exercise - Regular exercise reduces stress hormones and releases endorphins, hormones that promote a sense of wellbeing.

  • Mindfulness - A technique that helps you be fully present in the moment, being aware of your own mind, body and surroundings. This can help you respond to your own thoughts and feelings and be kinder to yourself. This is a technique that can be explored further in counselling.

  • Acts of self-care - All of the above can be considered self-care, but there may also be activities specific to you that you find nurturing, e.g. reading a book, seeing friends, playing with your pet. Remember, even small actions towards your self-care can have a significant impact on your wellbeing, especially if they become part of your routine.

How can I help you?

Now, of course there are stressors that aren't so easy to overcome, or perhaps you haven't identified exactly what it is that is causing you so much stress.

I work with people living with varying levels of stress caused by work, relationship/family issues, bereavement, previous trauma and many other reasons. By giving them a safe space to explore their experiences we have found ways to to cope with these stresses.

If you are feeling stressed or anxious, counselling may help you identify the cause and find a way through this difficult time. Visit my homepage for more information on how I can help you.

Or you're welcome to get in touch with me directly.

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