GP Alice Fitzgibbon talks to Professional Builder about stress.
What is stress? Stress comes when the pressures of everyday life become difficult to manage. Sometimes this might be money worries, relationship problems, health problems or work-related troubles. It is often short-term and is different to having anxiety or depression although some symptoms may be the same.
Stress is a common problem. The Mental Health Foundation’s 2018 study showed that in the last year, 74 per cent of people have felt so stressed that they have been overwhelmed or unable to cope. The results also showed that stress levels are higher in younger people, and that 37 per cent of people who reported feeling stressed also felt lonely as a result.
Each one of us will react differently to stress in our lives, but it is important to recognise when it might be becoming a problem. Stress can affect both mental and physical health due to the effect it has on the body and the habits we develop to help manage it. Sometimes if people are having a difficult time they may turn to alcohol or smoke more as a way to try and help get through it.
The symptoms of stress can include:
- problems with sleeping
- appetite loss
- difficulty concentrating
- feeling irritable or angry
- feeling worried most of the time with thoughts running through your head
- feeling dizzy
- muscle tension
- having high blood pressure
Recognising that you may be experiencing the symptoms of stress is important as there are lots of ways you can help manage the stress. Taking time out of your daily life in order to relax properly is really important. This might be as simple as a trip to the cinema or reading a book. Being organised with your time may also help. Exercising regularly, from a daily walk to a regular swimming session to a round of golf, will also help combat high stress levels.
There are also self-help techniques that are proven to help with stress. Using Mindfulness, a meditation technique, can help you be more aware of yourself and your feelings. Using this technique has become very popular as it is easy and effective; many people use apps on their mobile phones to help them get started.
As a GP, I regularly see people with stress. Coming in to talk about it can be difficult, but often people say they feel better for discussing it. Being open with family and friends and using their support can help. Most people who are managing stress need time along with advice about how to manage it; over time the stressful situation often improves and the pressure is relieved. In some cases, stress can be a long term problem and counselling or further therapy may be needed to help. Stress management courses are available across the UK to help teach people about stress and how to manage it, your local GP will have details about what is available in your area.
If you think you might be experiencing stress it is never too early to get some help. To find out more about stress and ways to help manage it, the NHS website www.nhs.uk has lots of helpful information and tips.