April marks Stress Awareness Month, led by the Stress Management Society. Stress is a huge public health challenge that’s linked to both physical and mental health concerns. Individually we all need to better understand what is causing us personal stress so that we can take steps to control it.
As Wildfire’s Sanctus champion (a space where our team can discuss their mental health and wellbeing), I wanted to join a recent Speakers’ Corner event on Stress Awareness to learn if there’s anything else we can be advising the team on. I was intrigued by the line-up, which included Dr Pixie McKenna from Embarrassing Bodies and hypnotist Paul McKenna.
There were some really great tips included in the session that I felt compelled to share in case they help others. I am not a medical professional, so please seek medical assistance and expertise if you are experiencing high levels of stress or health implications as an effect. There’s a list of support lines provided by the NHS available.
Dr McKenna outlined some insane stats when it comes to workplace stress, reporting that it costs organisations 40 million working days a year and billions of pounds. And she said a staggering 58 million GP appointments are booked for stress-related concerns. She urged that it’s imperative to keep your stress in check as it can negatively impact your health in the long term and can kill.
Pixie outlined tips to identify the signs of stress and tips on how to combat workplace stress. Stress is part of life, but we don’t have to let it take control. Firstly, it’s OK to not be OK. You need to talk about how you feel. Don’t suppress stress or brush anything off because you feel other people are worse off than you.
Essentially, avoid normalising stress. If you have a new onset medical symptom, don’t rule out stress being a component. Even if didn’t cause it, it could be part of it. Ask uncomfortable questions and address elephants in the room. You don’t have to just accept that things must be part of who you are.
Pixie laid out the importance of your “ABC”. In this case, awareness, balance and boundaries and control. It might be hard, but this means understanding that we can only fix the fixable, and with that, accept the inevitable and that we can’t fix what we can’t control. Protect the self and take the time to think about that for you.
Take more time for you
As is often famously quoted, Mark Twain said it all when he said, “I’ve been through some terrible things in my life and some of them actually happened.” We really can wind ourselves up to points of catastrophism and we’re often notoriously bad at making time for ourselves.
It’s important to check in with yourself regularly on a happiness scale of 1–10, and not neglect what makes you happy. Saying yes to yourself and no to others is OK, because it’ll be better for those people too that you’re taking that time.
I’ve never been one for meditation, but I think Paul McKenna has changed that. I don’t think he hypnotised me, but I guess I’ll never know… He went through a visualisation exercise on the webinar and it really put things into perspective. Maybe try it out if you never have or try out other techniques such as exercise, podcasts or online groups.
For 2021, Stress Awareness Month is focused on ‘regaining connectivity, certainty and control’ and I urge you to take the time to understand your personal stress and take steps to control it where you can.