Five key facts about stress that everyone should know

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Jaan Madan, Workplace Lead at Mental Health First Aid England, looks at five key facts about stress that everyone should know.

1.Stress isn’t always bad for us

Stress is the body’s natural response when it senses danger. We all experience stress and need it to function. So the right amount of stress is healthy and a motivating factor – it’s when it starts to interfere with our lives that it becomes a problem. Too much stress, for too long, can make us ill – mentally and physically.

2.Stress isn’t a mental health condition

Stress in itself is not a mental health condition. But if unaddressed, too much stress for too long can cause mental health issues like depression or anxiety and harm our physical health. One in six adults in Britain experience depression, anxiety or problems relating to stress at any one time.

3.You can control stress

Whilst it is not always possible to control the sources of stress there are some simple and helpful coping strategies that can make a big difference. Regular exercise, setting aside time for hobbies or activities and spending regular time switched off from distractions can help us build resilience in to our lives. Even at times when we’re experiencing more stress than usual, simple strategies and adjustments can help ensure that stress don’t build up to a point where it negatively impacts our mental health.

4.Happy events can cause stress too

It’s not just heavy workloads, money worries, or uncertainty that causes stress. Even happy life events such as having children, getting married or starting a new job can be stressful. It’s important for people to be aware that there are many different factors that can cause people to feel stressed and that we all experience stress differently.

5.We all have an individual ‘stress signature’

We all handle stress differently and each have our own unique vulnerability to it. But there are some common emotional, behavioural and physical signs that could show someone is in need of support. Physical signs include constant tiredness or frequent headaches, while emotional signs include becoming more irritable or a loss of confidence. Meanwhile, indecision or forgetfulness are examples of behavioural signs that could indicate excessive or prolonged stress.

The Mental Health Foundation in their research found that 23% of us compromise our health – mental or physical – to do our job. So there’s a real urgency for more people to understand stress and to feel confident offering basic support to help others, or themselves, cope.

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