Millions of us around the UK are experiencing high levels of stress every day that is damaging our health – so why is it still not being taken seriously?

Since 1992, April has been named Stress Awareness Month. Its aim is to increase public awareness about the causes, consequences and cures for the modern-day stress epidemic. According to the Mental Health Foundation, 74% of adults in the UK have felt extreme stress over the past year. Some were so stressed that they felt they were overwhelmed, unable to cope and that it was damaging their health. Stress, and mental health issues as a result of it, has become one of the greatest public health challenges, but it’s still not being taken as seriously as physical health problems, so we’ve investigated why it should be.

We live in a world where the ‘millennial burnout’ is a common occurrence. We’re a generation that feels the need to be busy 24/7. If we’re not busy, we feel like we’re failing or forgetting something. Even our self-care routines and stress solutions consist of something physical and time-consuming like running or yoga (whichever is more Instagram-able, obviously). It just doesn’t feel acceptable to slob around on the sofa in front of the TV in your pyjamas indulging in food which we may or may not regret the next day. If it’s not making us healthier, getting us ‘likes’ or progressing us in one way or another, it’s not worth doing. We’ve adopted, quite seriously, the idea that we should be pro-active all. The. Time. It’s no wonder we’re all exhausted and claiming our well-defined and intricately coloured eye-bags are Prada.

The effects of stress can be deeper than what meets the eye. In a time where Mental Health awareness is at it’s peak, we’re all mindful that anyone could be going through anything. Stress can do many things to our minds and bodies. It can break us out with unwanted skin flare-ups, it can mess with our digestive system and even cause our weight to fluctuate dramatically (and these are just the more ‘expected’ symptoms of stress – it can get much worse).

Although these physical side effects of being stressed can feel infuriating, the mental effects it has on us can be far more severe. Stress can cause feelings of anxiety and contribute to symptoms of depression. You may notice your behaviour changing or have trouble sleeping. It can affect the relationships we have with people around us as a result of being irritable or aggressive. These things don’t necessarily scream ‘stress’, so it can be hard for people around us to understand what’s actually going on.

So, how can we help ourselves and others around us?

  • Talk about stress and the effects it has on us: We can work together to rid the stigma around stress by being open about it with family and friends.
  • Sharing how we cope with stress: Everyone deals with stress differently and so when we share our survival techniques, it might just help someone else with their own problems.
  • Be kind: We should be nice at all times anyway, but that bit of kindness to someone who is suffering from stress and anxiety (whether we’re aware of it or not) could help them in ways we may not understand. It’s always nice to be nice. 
  • Eat well: There is evidence that proves how food can affect our mood. Getting the right nutrients and water can do us wonders in the long-run and help short-term as well.
  • Self-care: Without sounding like the cliché of 2019, self-care is so important. You need to look after yourself. Give yourself a time out when things get too much but, more importantly, don’t feel bad about it when you do. After all, you’re only human.
  • It’s ok not to be ok: The biggest battled faced today is the stigma and taboo attached to stress, anxiety and generally not being at 100% all the time. It’s exhausting. Knowing, understanding and accepting that it’s ok not to be ok is vital.

We are not medically trained to offer any further advice, however if you are experiencing feelings of stress, anxiety and/or depression, please reach out to a medical practitioner for help. If not, Mind Charity, the Mental Health Foundation or Samaritans are just a few of the charities available to help at any time.