NHS Tayside -Taking steps to protect yourself from the impact of stress

To mark Stress Awareness Month, NHS Tayside is encouraging people to be aware of steps they can take to help reduce feelings of stress.

The past year has been very challenging for many people, with some potentially feeling more stress and anxiety as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Stress Awareness Month 2021 is held annually by the Stress Management Society to increase public awareness about the causes and treatment for people feeling stress.

Stress can be a significant factor in mental health problems including anxiety and depression, and is also linked to some physical health problems, such as heart diseases and insomnia. Some examples of things that may cause stress include work issues, family relationships, financial problems or health issues.

Stress can cause many different symptoms and it might affect how you feel physically, mentally and also how you behave. If you are stressed, you can experience headaches, nausea, indigestion, shallow breathing, sweating, heart palpitations, and aches and pains.

Clinical Lead for General Adult Psychiatry in Angus Dr Chris Pell said, “The COVID-19 pandemic has been hard on all of us, and it is important to take time to recognise the effect that stress can have. Whilst much of the focus has been on people’s physical health, mental health services across Tayside have been working continuously throughout the pandemic to support people as the psychological impact of it all hits home.

“Changes to our routines at home and at work, coupled with a reduced chance to socialise and relax with friends and family have left many people struggling to cope. Recognising that you may be stressed and speaking about it with someone you trust is often the hardest but most important step to take.

“It is important to remember that it is okay to not be okay, and there is a great deal of help and support available.”

Here are some simple steps that people can take to help reduce feelings of stress:

  •  Eat healthily – A healthy diet can improve your mood. Be mindful about what you are eating and think about balance and moderation. View the Eat Well Guide for tips on eating a healthy diet.
  • Be aware of smoking and drinking alcohol – reduce or stop smoking and drinking alcohol if you can. Visit www.alcoholchange.org.uk to find ways to manage your drinking and look after your mental health. You can contact Quit Your Way Tayside on 01382 424127 for advice to stop smoking.
  • Exercise – physical activity can help manage the effects of stress by producing endorphins that boost your mood. Even small amounts of exercise can make a difference. Discover a physical activity that you enjoy – it doesn’t have to be a strenuous workout, you could go for a long walk, do some work in the garden or do some yoga. For ideas visit https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/ or www.pathsforall.org.uk or Get Out Get Active Tayside
  •  Take time out – take time to relax and practice self-care, where you do positive things for yourself. Think about what helps you relax and make time to do something just for you. Visit www.clearyourhead.scot/ for advice and support.
  •  Be mindful – Mindfulness meditation can be practiced anywhere at any time. Mindfulness involves paying attention to our thoughts and feelings in a way that increases our ability to manage difficult situations and make wise choices.
  • Get enough sleep – Regularly getting a good night’s sleep is very important to good mental health. Around seven to eight hours is the average amount of sleep an adult needs for their body and mind to fully rest. When you don’t get enough sleep, it can contribute to a range of problems, including depression and anxiety. If you’re having difficulty sleeping, you can try to reduce the amount of caffeine you consume and avoid too much screen time before bed.
  • Don’t be too hard on yourself – Try to keep things in perspective and don’t be too hard on yourself. Take a few minutes each day to appreciate yourself and look for things in your life that are positive.

If you continue to feel overwhelmed by stress, please contact your GP to discuss how you are feeling and get advice on possible treatment options.

People can also visit NHS Tayside’s online self help mental health directory, which includes a list of mental health support and advice organisations, resources both in Tayside and nationally. The directory is also available to view on NHS Tayside’s Living Life Well at www.nhstayside.scot.nhs.uk

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