This week is Mental Health Awareness Week and the Mental Health Foundation (MHF) is asking: are we coping with stress?
After carrying out research into the prevalence of stress in the UK and its implications, the MHF is urging people to raise awareness of mental health issues: the report found that 74% of people have at some point felt so stressed that they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope. The survey, commissioned by the Mental Health Foundation and undertaken by YouGov, polled 4,169 adults in the UK in 2018.
The mental and physical implications of stress can be depression, anxiety, self-harm and suicide and the MHF makes recommendation for a less stressed nation, from health care professionals addressing stressors of their patients to teachers being trained in mental health literacy.
Mark Rowland director of fundraising and communications, says, “As a species, we've been around for 200,000 years. For most of that time, mental health has not been on our radar. Too busy surviving. But we are starting to understand that mental health is essential to make life worth surviving.
“Stress is not a mental health problem itself. The stress response is a survival strategy to keep us safe. It was a vital adaption when looking to survive being eaten on the savannah.”
Mark points to the social scientist Michael Marmot, who describes stress as what happens when we cannot control what is happening to us.
Mark adds, “Today our brain cannot distinguish between a lion’s menacing presence and the affront of a rude person who pushes past you in the queue. The physiological response is the same. Many of us are triggering our stress response repeatedly every day – day in, day out.
“It leads to what the experts call the allostatic overload. Instead of out-witting the lion and then retreating to a nearby cave, repeated stressful events is like being chased all day by a lion on repeat. Sound like one of your days? It turns out that this is very bad for us. It makes us sick.
“In one of life's bitter ironies, our stress response – which has done so much to keep us alive – now threatens to drastically reduce the quality of our lives.”
Meanwhile, mental health charity Mind are focusing on helping to create a less stressful workplace.
Mind offer a range of services to help find practical ways of reducing stress, both for employers and employees.
Mind feature a blog post from Stacie-May, a former ambulance service worker, who explains, “Getting outdoors helps me better manage my mental health and I know running is good for me, but having the motivation to go out and run can be incredibly hard. I sometimes find just getting up and washing difficult, let alone running.”
In the healthcare profession, a Perkbox study found that workers are the third most stressed in the UK: 48% of healthcare workers reported experiencing stress relating to money and finances, 47% relating to loved ones and family life, 39% relating to their own health and wellbeing and 35% relating to romantic relationships.