Stress Awareness Month 2021
April is National Stress awareness month – and it couldn’t come at a better time.
With lockdown now starting to lift, it almost feels like the end to a lack of socialising is near. That lack of social contact can be a real catalyst of stress but also for some, thinking of socialising again is just as stressful. And that is key - remembering that everyone is different.
There are many different ways to help alleviate stress and we asked some of the CIM SW Board members to share their thoughts and some tips on dealing with stress.
Stress is not abnormal and feeling stressed is not a sign of weakness. Our daily interactions with others and the pressures that we place upon ourselves, can create situations that will inevitably create some form of stress.
Recognition of the causes can help and seeking to mitigate these is often a good place to start. Sometimes this will mean some difficult choices though. However, bringing levels of stress down to a manageable level is going to be more realistic than trying to live a stress-free life.
There are also some activities that we can do to help to offset some of the effects. The people that we interface with is very important and seeking to engage with others who share our values should not be underestimated.
Also doing things that we enjoy alongside the ones we love, is always good and should not be an excuse for some form of guilt. If these involve some sort of physical activity this can also help and often help a lot.
In the event though that things do feel that they are really getting on top of us, we need to seek professional help. There is no stigma to this and can help us to understand, as well as to develop strategies to bring things back under control.
Be kind to yourself.
Brian Doidge, Chair
Understanding stress and identifying the symptoms is a very personal thing, it’s hard to define in a few words as it can manifest itself in many ways. I personally enjoy a challenge or deadline, it adds excitement, but having too much of anything is not always healthy for you.
I first of all noticed I could be suffering with stress when I experienced headaches, this then led to a kind of brain fog. I drank more water and the symptoms did not go away. I spoke about it with my friends and family, and it was then that the word stress was mentioned.
With life’s challenges increasing (especially in the last 12 months), it became apparent that I needed to listen to my body more. By identifying the symptoms personal to me sooner rather than later, I was able to put in place some strategies to support myself.
For me, I enjoy being creative and took up a weekly pottery course. It allowed me to learn something different and use my creative skills too. I guess this time created a space for just me, which I didn’t know I had missed. Along with pottery I downloaded the app Calm (others are available), to help with breathing and meditation. Again, creating space for me.
I now have a kiln at home, offer courses and sell my pieces. There is something about having clay in your hands that makes you slow down, it does not allow you to rush. By slowing down, my breathing slowed and my mind rested. Swimming also gives that feeling for me, whereas friends say that running is good for creating space for yourself.
By really listening to your body, talking about how you are feeling you can help yourself find strategies to cope with stress. Above anything else talk to someone and let them know how you are feeling, chances are you are not alone.
Sarah Patten, Vice Chair
Whether we’re the loudest ones in the room or the introvert, the truth is stress effects everyone. And everyone has a different way of showing it (or hiding it). It’s really important that we keep checking in with family, friends and colleagues. Just a simple ‘how are you’ could get someone talking.
Talking is a great way of relieving worries and anxieties, but exercise can also be a great stress reliever. For me, I find running is the ultimate in stress busting. If I have had a busy day at work or simply have a lot going on, I really look forward to a run and it totally takes me away from everything. I make some playlists that will really pump me up for my run and that’s all I focus on. I can tell when I’m getting stressed now because my body tells me it wants to run, and I get super excited for the days I run!
I also find that walking is also a great form of stress relieving exercise – especially with a friend. Having a chat whilst getting some steps in can really help to forget anything causing you stress and enjoy a break.
One thing to always remember is that you are not alone. Everyone suffers from some form of stress at some point. Its absolutely normal and sometimes it’s just our bodies telling us to slow down, take a break. Self-care is so important. Whether that means watching a favourite film, eating some chocolate (always helps me) or just spending an evening taking a long bath and relaxing, reading a book. Do what suits you. Everyone is different and it’s about understanding what relaxes you and is best for you. Take care of yourself always.
Claire Bryant, Student & Education Ambassador
Stress comes in so many forms - your work, dealing with big life decisions, stretching yourself too thin, the list goes on and on. I find from discussing this with lots of different people that nobody escapes stress, no matter whether you're a brain surgeon or retired, and nobody has the perfect answer to removing it from your life (which makes me feel better, as I certainly don't!)
A term used in the pandemic which I think applies to stress too is - We're all in different boats in the same storm. Which I think is highly relevant when we're talking about stress - everyone feels it to different extremes and has different ways to cope.
I certainly don't have the answers - but when I'm feeling stressed I find that exercise (I especially love yoga), meditation, camomile tea, a good book and being outside gardening helps to switch off my brain and allows me to just take a step back.
Verity Studley-Wootton, Communications Ambassador