April is National Stress Awareness and has been marked as such since 1992.
Stress is the body’s natural physical reaction to pressure. The body naturally goes to a “fight or flight” mode and releases hormones to prepare the body for fight. These might include adrenaline, cortisol and norepinephrine.
As part of the reaction, blood is diverted to the parts of the body which will be helpful in the fight situation, such as the muscles, and away from the parts of the body that won’t be, such as digestion. This can cause typical reactions such as breathlessness, a surge of energy or a trembling.
To an extent, we all feel stress, and a little of it is good. After all, without that instinct, we wouldn’t know to run away from danger. However, a danger with stress can be if we stay in that “fight or flight” mode for too long and the body suffers as a result. Blood flows away from the brain affecting our ability to think clearly, while essential functions such as sugar levels and blood pressure can suffer as the result of being in stress-mode for too long.
As a result, it’s important that we learn to manage stress and not allow it to manage us.
What Can You Do?
Signs of an overload of stress can have a variety of tell-tale signs. If you’re finding yourself regularly irritable, angry, overwhelmed, anxious, disinterested in your life or personal relationships, worries or tense, lonely or unable to enjoy yourself, it could be that you’re dealing with too much stress and are not coping.
It can feel embarrassing to admit to feeling stressed or overwhelmed, but there is absolutely no need to. Everyone will, at some point, experience stress – which is why this awareness week exists.
If you’re feeling stress build-up, there are a number of things you can do:
- Talk about it – being open about how you’re feeling can really help to focus on the issue and how to solve it
- Eat a balanced diet
- Exercise regularly
- Give yourself a break and take some “Me Time”
- Avoid alcohol, nicotine, caffeine and other drugs
- Practice mindfulness (here)
- Reduce screen time and take a social media break
- Make plans and give yourself something to look forward to
- Create boundaries and don’t be afraid to say no
What Does Unitas Do?
With a staff of over 600 people in a variety of job roles and locations, keeping our team healthy and happy is vitally important to us. We take a great pride in the work that we do for wellbeing and a great deal of our focus is geared towards mental health and reducing the harm that stress can cause.
As part of our commitment, we’ve taken a number of steps:
- Mental Health First Aiders: we currently have twelve members of staff who are trained as Mental Health First Aiders and are available to support and signpost staff members should they need it.
- Wellbeing Group: we have a dedicated wellbeing group who meet on a monthly basis and plan events, activities and awareness sessions. The Wellbeing Group have been responsible for organising scales and blood pressure monitors in each break area, fresh fruit and smoothie makers in each kitchen, and flu jabs each winter.
- Exercise sessions, including weekly lunchtime yoga sessions
- Outdoor activities such as our planned Kingfisher Walk
- Our garden area for staff breaks and mindfulness sessions
- Special interest groups including our Photography Group
For further details on National Stress Week and free resources to help you assess and manage your stress levels, click here.