Every April in the UK since 1992 has been Stress Awareness Month, and with all that’s going on across the world today, this year’s initiative couldn’t be more timely.
Stress Awareness Month is run by the mental health charity Rethink Mental Illness, with its aim being to increase public awareness of the causes and treatments for stress and it’s in hard times like this that it’s critical to be aware of what may be triggering stress in our lives.
Last year, the Mental Health Foundation reported that 74% of people in the UK had at some point felt so stressed that they felt unable to cope. Stress can affect anyone, but for those amongst us living with mental illness, it can be a powerful contributor to conditions such as depression and anxiety.
Stress is a problem at the best of times, but the events of the past months have placed added pressure on us all. The situation is distressing, and the worldwide social distancing and lockdown measures we are having to take to manage it, are having a profound and wide-ranging impact on us all.
There is no doubt that right now it’s important that we all take seriously the advice to stay at home. The current situation may mean that some are experiencing grief and don’t have loved ones around for support. Some may be ill or caring for loved ones affected by the virus and therefore more stressed. Others may be experiencing a higher degree of worry, fear and anxiety for family and friends who are vulnerable. Isolation and the current lockdown can exacerbate these feelings and can leave us feeling excluded. For most of us, we know that this will be short-term, and we are working to adjust to a new ‘normal’ for a short period of time.
For some, however, this is not the new ‘normal’, but their everyday experience. Whether because of their religion, sexual preference, gender identity, cultural background, age, race or financial situation, they have experienced years, or even a lifetime of feeling isolated and excluded. As a consequence, they live with a high level of stress, and its impact on their mental health. Whilst we look forward to being with our friends, family and colleagues once again, we should remember that for some, the end to physical distancing will not relieve their sense of isolation.
It’s heartening to see the way in which much of the world has responded to the crisis. People are adapting, reaching out to others and co-ordinating to support the most vulnerable. There have been remarkable examples of caring and solidarity, and beyond these stressful and unsettling times, I hope that we continue to see supportive and positive gestures across the world. We’re all in this together and together we will come through the other side. Stay safe, be kind to yourself and others and don’t be afraid to ask for support if you need it.
Rethink Mental Illness has some excellent advice for managing stress during this time, and is providing particular guidance for those of us who suffer from a mental health condition or care for someone who does. You can find their information hub here.
Louisa Gregory – Chief of Staff and VP, Inclusion and Diversity, Colt Technology Services