Stress Awareness Week 2020 – Mental Wellbeing

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Today marks the start of Stress Awareness Week. This is a valuable opportunity to focus on the importance of good mental health. Despite the significant challenges faced by so many of us, the challenges we are facing have resulted in mental health being deprioritised. Let this week be an opportunity to focus on our wellbeing and mental health. We can use this as a chance to pause and consider what we can do to build the personal resilience required to be best equipped for the challenging times that lie ahead.

Everyone has experienced stress at some point in their life, however many still struggle to recognise it early enough to prevent it from having a significant impact on our lives. Our definition of excessive or negative stress is ‘when a person perceives that demands they are being subjected to exceed the personal or social resources the individual can mobilise’. In addition, there is an intertwined instinctive stress response to unexpected events. The stress response inside us is therefore partly instinctive and partly the way that we respond to situations.

Despite stress being demonised in modern society, it can be a good thing. The human stress response allowed early humans to survive and thrive against the challenges that they faced. In certain situations, a degree of stress can be useful to focus and sharpen our minds. In this day and age, the stressful situations look a bit different than they would have for our ancestors, however, it can still be useful for us.

You might find stress helpful when:

  • Competing in a sports competition or performing on stage
  • When running for a bus or train
  • Being faced with an emergency like a burning building and stress will equip you to do what is necessary to escape
  • If you were driving on the motorway and someone started veering in your lane.

Stress becomes a hindrance when it is not a helpful response and impacts negatively on the situation or our ability to deal with it.

You might find stress a hindrance when:

  • Stuck in a traffic jam
  • Your computer is crashing
  • Sitting in an exam
  • A job interview
  • Getting married

Over the next 5 days we are going to explore the impact of stress and different solutions, some of which have been taken from Neil Shah’s book, The 10 Step Stress Solution.

We’ve decided to break this week down using The Five Building Blocks of Wellness: Mental wellness, Emotional Wellness, Physical Wellness, Social Wellness and Spiritual Wellness.

Mental Wellness

Today we will be looking at the impact of stress on mental state. 

This year has provided us with a perfect example of a stressful climate. A recent study by Oracle and Workplace intelligence found that 2020 has been the most stressful year to date. This aligns with other statistics showing the deterioration of mental health amongst the British public.  The secondary impact of the recent challenges such as the lockdown, isolation, job losses and economic challenges have increased the risk of developing psychiatric disorders such as anxiety, PTSD and depression.

Stress can cause a variety of mental side effects such as:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Indecisiveness
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Worry and Anxiety
  • Forgetfulness
  • Exhaustion
  • Depression

In extreme cases it can also cause:

  • Chronic fatigue
  • Severe panic attacks
  • Suicidal thoughts

    The bridge metaphor

Imagine that you are a bridge. Then imagine driving loads of double-decker buses on the bridge, until it is completely covered with them. Then using a cane, imagine placing lots of trucks filled with concrete on top of the buses. Then place a couple of Boeing 746s on the ship, then a few helicopters, maybe a dozen tanks… If you put enough weight on the bridge what will happen? Eventually, it will collapse under the load. However, before it collapses, it will bow, buckle, groan and creak. The bridge will give us clues that it’s not coping, and we have a few choices to prevent it from collapsing.

  1. We can remove some of the load, and/or
  2. We can give the bridge some additional support, maybe using concrete blocks or iron girders to increase the structural integrity of the bridge so it is better equipped to cope with the load.

Use the bridge tool to visualise your own bridge with all of your own various pressures piled on it. What pressures do you have to deal with? Can your bridge cope under all of that weight? You can then work or whether to strengthen the supports or take off some of the pressure.

Over the next week, we will look into some of the different ways to explore your load and strengthen your bridge.

If you would like to attend our ‘Adapting to Thrive in an Abnormal World’ session that’s taking place at 2:30pm on 3rd of November then please follow the link below.