Don’t stress about mental health

Stress; it seems that wherever we look we can’t get away from it. Whenever we talk about a setback or a problem, or even when we tell the tale of encountering a minor inconvenience then almost inevitably the word stress appears in the telling. So much so that we are in danger of trivialising what can be a very real condition and the underlying cause of ongoing health problems.


Now let’s say at the outset that we are in no way advocating a return to the old days in which we never questioned, never complained, and grinning and bearing it was the only option. That certainly wasn’t the solution; leading as it did to multiple issues including individual and family breakdown. And it is also true that we shouldn’t dismiss those seemingly trivial claims of stress out of hand. For those who are just about coping with life changing events such as bereavement, sometimes it is the minor issues that prove ‘to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back;’ arriving unexpectedly and making an impact when there is no personal resilience left.


So maybe the word stress is bandied around too much, but we should in no way ignore what is a very real condition. That’s why is so important that stress has been chosen as the theme for the 2018 mental health week (14-20 May). Introducing the week the Mental Health Foundation comments that:


While stress isn’t a mental health problem in itself, it can lead to a range of mental health problems such as depression and anxiety, and even self-harm and suicide. By tackling stress, we can go a long way to tackling mental health problems.”


Equally importantly, MIND highlights the way in which stress can not only affect eating and sleeping patterns but also can cause our bodies to release cortisol and adrenaline; all of which can affect our physical health in the long term. So how much of a problem is stress? Well, a survey for carried out by MIND for Mental Health Week came up with the startling conclusion that in the last year three in four of us have been so stressed that we have felt overwhelmed or unable to cope, with one in three feeling suicidal.


Now whilst there is no one magic solution, there are things that we can all do to help to relieve stress in ourselves and others. The first is to acknowledge that stress is real and to open up discussions about stress both at home and in the workplace. The second is to look at our work life balance, taking time to ensure that we aren’t spending time on processes which could better be done in other ways. MIND suggests that identifying triggers, organising time and addressing some of the causes of stress are just three ways in which we can start to learn to deal with pressure and remove stress.


For example, if we can find a way to enable health professionals to concentrate on patient treatments rather than admin then they can maximise their output without compromising much needed personal time.  Similarly, taking steps to ensure that patients don’t miss much needed appointments can help to speed up recovery and rehabilitation; thereby helping to relieve any stress or anxiety caused by managing a health condition.


There are times in life when each and every one of us will encounter an event which almost inevitably leads to our feeling stressed. But they should be the exception rather than the rule. By taking control of day-to-day events, and most importantly by being open in sharing feelings and needs we can all take a step forward in managing stress both in ourselves and others.