*Blog written by Hey Me’s Communications Assistant, Amelia*
Stress has been termed the ‘epidemic’ of the twenty-first century. Particularly over the last year, it has been a constant force in our lives, with the Covid-19 pandemic exacerbating our anxieties.
Things we previously would have done without any thought, gone to the shops or had a drink with a friend, became not only stressful but potentially dangerous. With the UK starting to ease lockdown, there is a sense of hope but this also comes with new worries.
Several studies have highlighted the pandemic’s impact on mental health. One found that 65% of people in the UK have felt more stressed since Covid-19 restrictions began in March 2020 for a wide range of reasons, from work stress to missing loved ones. Another study by the Mental Health Foundation found 74% of UK adults have felt so stressed at some point over the last year they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope.
Evidently, the problem of stress is serious. Stress Awareness Month aims to combat this by starting conversations about stress and increasing public awareness about both its causes and solutions. It has been going since 1992 and this year’s fitting theme is ‘Regaining Connectivity, Certainty and Control’, which we will explore in today’s blog.
Reducing the stigma surrounding stress is one of the aims of Stress Awareness Month. Talking about your stress and communicating openly about how you’re feeling can be useful and will help tackle the increase in social isolation and loneliness during the pandemic.
Over the last year, we’ve all had to find new ways of keeping connected with loved ones and the wider world. Whether it’s through zoom, email or social media, having a quick catch up can be a great way to ease stress. If you start feeling ‘zoom fatigue’, a quick phone call can be a good way to keep in touch without feeling exhausted. Limiting your screen time will also make sure you stay connected without damaging your mental health.
Helping others in your local area could be another great way to stay connected. You could brighten someone’s day with a random act of kindness or volunteer at a local food bank or mutual aid group.
With the lockdown easing, you might even be able to catch up with friends or family down the local pub! From the 12th of April, many pubs and restaurants with outdoor seating have reopened, making it a great chance to meet up. Or perhaps you could grab a coffee and explore your local area.
Certainty has been missing from our lives since the start of the pandemic. With the success of the vaccine roll out and the easing of lockdown, certainty is hopefully going to be a more present force in our lives.
One way to regain certainty is to keep informed with the news and the Covid-19 regulations can help you regain certainty. Although it’s important to be mindful of these activities, such as watching the news, as studies have show they can have a negative impact on stress levels and can release stress hormones like cortisol.
In this ever-changing world, staying flexible and open to change may be the best approach for your mental health as certainty is not always a given. Over the last year in the UK, we have faced a number of lockdowns and constant change. Hopefully the end of the pandemic is in sight, but keeping a flexible mindset can help with any future stumbling blocks Covid-19 related or not.
Though it may often feel like everything is out of control, there are areas of life where you can regain control. Creating routines can give you a sense of stability and making sure to prioritise your wellbeing and self-care will reduce stress. Eating well, exercising and taking time to relax are all simple but effective here.
Planning for the future can also help you regain a sense of agency. You could start planning the next place you want to go on holiday, a staycation in the UK or even a fun day out.
We are all craving connectivity, certainty and control at the moment. Taking some simple steps can help reincorporate these into our daily lives and lessen our stress. Visit https://www.stress.org.uk for more information about Stress Awareness Month.