Stress and mental health
Information about stress and mental health.
Stress is very much a feature of modern life. Everyone experiences stress at some stage, whether it's a demanding job, looking after a family, a bereavement, divorce or moving house. A reasonable amount of pressure can be good for us - it can challenge, motivate and stimulate us. The buzz of a new challenge keeps life interesting. But too much pressure results in stress and over a long time may be damaging to our health, work performance and relationships. Some studies suggest stress can be a killer, contributing to the risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
Symptoms of stress include:
- Disturbed sleep
- Heightened sensitivity to criticism
- Poor concentration
Stress alone is unlikely to cause long-term physical ill health. It is only when coupled with other risk factors, like drinking or smoking too much, lack of exercise and poor diet, that we run real risks.
However, it may lead to long-term problems with our mental wellbeing, such as anxiety and depression. But it is important to remember that most medical symptoms can be corrected if we take action to control our stress levels.
Recognise the need for change
The first step in tackling stress is actually recognising the symptoms and identifying exactly what must change. Stress can be a vicious cycle, reducing our ability to think clearly about things in a calm way, particularly the things that are making us stressed in the first place.
- Change the way you are thinking. Work out what exactly is causing you to be stressed and question whether you could be doing it differently.
- Change your behaviour and do something positive. For example, talk to a friend or a union representative if work related, manage your time differently and more effectively, and take more control over issues that affect you.
- Change your lifestyle. Ensure you have a well balanced and nutritious diet. Ensure a good work and life balance, be active and take time to relax.
Mental health problems can affect people at any time of life and in different ways. They can be devastating to both friends and families and those suffering.
Problems can include:
- Depression, including Bipolar disorder (manic depression)
- Alzheimer's disease/dementia
- Eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
Social participation and physical activity can reduce the risk of common mental health problems and also help aid recovery for those already affected - for example reducing stress and mild to moderate depression.