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Stress Awareness Month

Dr Andrew Wilson

Dr Andrew Wilson, clinical chair of NHS Cheshire Clinical Commissioning Group

As April is Stress Awareness Month, I wanted to devote this week’s column to the effective management of stress.

Stress is experienced when people feel that the demand they are under exceeds their personal and social resources.

Stress isn’t always a bad thing, it’s great when we need to be alerted to danger!

When we’re stressed, we have a physical response where our body switches to ‘fight or flight’. As such, more blood gets pumped into the muscles and your body shuts down unnecessary processes such as digestion.While this has its advantages we can lose our ability to ‘think straight’ which can be a hindrance to our work and home lives.

Stress also affects us in other ways such as:

·       Cognitively – poor judgement, brain fog or inability to concentrate

·       Emotionally – depression, moodiness or irritability

·       Behaviourally - increase in alcohol, cigarette and caffeine consumption

While this is only a short list, a more extensive list can be found here: https://www.stress.org.uk/how-it-affects-us/.

A great analogy when dealing with stress is the bridge analogy; when a bridge is carrying too much weight it will collapse but there will be warning signs beforehand – the bridge will buckle, bow and creak.

The bridge collapsing could be many things:

·       Mental and emotional breakdown

·       Taking one’s own life

·       Serious health issues including cardiovascular disease / rising blood pressure / promoting the growth of cancer cells.

If we’re able to recognise that we’re demanding too much of ourselves, we can stop ourselves getting anywhere near the bridge.

Here are some tips and tricks to reduce your stress levels:

·       Adopt a positive mindset

·       Drink plenty of water or fresh juice

·       Get a good night’s sleep, aim for between seven and nine hours

·       Eat five portions of fruit or vegetables every day

·       Don’t be a slave to tech

·       Exercise for at least two and a half hours a week, aiming to get slightly out of breath

·       Practise deep breathing

·       Don’t take on more commitments than you’re able to manage.

If you’d like any more information on stress please visit: https://www.stress.org.uk/, you’ll find a free stress guide, how to reduce your stress in seven days, online health assessment and much more.