Perhaps I am a little biased as I see stressed out clients on a daily basis but the research shows that stress levels are increasing. According to the Mental Health Foundation’s 2018 study on stress levels:
- In the past year, 74% of people have felt so stressed they have been overwhelmed or unable to cope.
- 46% reported that they ate too much or ate unhealthily due to stress. 29% reported that they started drinking or increased their drinking, and 16% reported that they started smoking or increased their smoking.
- 51% of adults who felt stressed reported feeling depressed, and 61% reported feeling anxious.
- Of the people who said they had felt stress at some point in their lives, 16% had self harmed and 32% said they had had suicidal thoughts and feelings.
- 37% of adults who reported feeling stressed reported feeling lonely as a result.
Those who don’t feel stressed at all are very much in the minority, coming in at around 15% of all participants. That means that the remaining 85% are experiencing a clearly recognisable level of worry regularly.
Common causes of stress:
Debt, health problems, being bombarded by emails, texts and phone calls 24/7, comparing ourselves to others, housing worries (especially for younger people) and pressure to succeed. Change and uncertainty also pay a huge factor in a person’s stress levels.
Accordng to the well known Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale, certain life events rate as more stressful than others with death of a spouse rating as the top stressor:
How to de-stress
In a study done by the American Psychological Association, the top stress management techniques identified were: watching television/movies for more than 2h per day, surfing the internet, sleeping, alcohol drinking and smoking. Not too many of these stress management methods can be incorporated in a healthy lifestyle, though.
Here are health, effective ways to relieve and reduce stress:
Watch less news on TV
The news reminds us of all the awful stuff going on in the world. Whilst it’s okay to know what is happening around us, it is not a good idea to make it part of your daily ‘information consumption’. It can leave us with a feeling of pervasive helplessness and low-grade depression.
When we spend too much time in our heads, we invite trouble and stress into our lives. We are programmed to look for danger and threat and as a result we are hard wired to focus on the negatives. Learn to spend less time ruminating and more time in the present moment. A quick and efficient mindfulness technique that you can do anywhere, anytime:
Focus on 5 things you can see, 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can touch, 2 things you can smell and if possible, one thing you can taste. Engaging your senses in whatever is around you is a simple and easy mindfulness technique that stops the incessant thought whizzing by. Repeat if necessary!
Focus on what you can control
We often focus on what we can’t control and this leads to increased stress. Acknowledge and accept what you can control and turn your focus to what is possible. What is it that you can affect or change right now? Do that instead of worrying about what is beyond your current remit.
Make time for fun
There is so much pressure to be perfect, to success, be admired and be the best. We are all seeking external validation but when that becomes too important, you will live in misery. learn to be happy with less and make time for fun. be silly, have a laugh and reject the constant pressure to BE BUSY all the time. See it as a modern day conspiracy that you are wise enough not to buy into. make choices because it’s what you really want not because you feel you must or should.
Care less what others think and stop comparing
Stress levels are on the rise because we now have too much choice and we don’t want to be deprived. We see what our friends have or others that we wish we could be like and it creates restlessness and a lack of appreciation for what is good in our lives. Don’t compare, you don’t know for sure what is going on in other people’s lives. Focus instead of what matters to you and where you are going and what makes you happy. This will lead you to a fae happier place with less stress. That’s a promise.
Unplug regularly from your phone, your emails and your computer
We all feel we have to be on call all the time and we can’t escape the pressure even when we are at home. This is why it is vital to unplug. This means you are taking control of your time rather than having your gadgets running your life (and the demands of other people). Create healthy boundaries in order to protect your leisure time. Spend this with family and friends and take time out regularly from the stress and demands of life.
There are a myriad of reasons as to why we all feel so stressed but it’s important to remember that in many ways we can limit the amount of stress we expose ourselves to. This can take a bit of practice but we do have choices and we can decide to create clearer boundaries in order to protect ourselves. Mental health is key for a fulfilled contented life and when there is too much stress it affects our hormones and brain chemistry. Learn to look after yourself physically and mentally and you will be in far better shape for it.