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Stress Awareness Month: reducing the effects of stress

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April is Stress Awareness Month, which aims to increase awareness of stress, its impact on our health and wellbeing as well as ways in which to cope with it.

There is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has been one of the most stressful periods in recent times. The combination of people being isolated from their friends and family, concerns over our health and the health and safety of our loved ones, and the potential impact on finances, for example, all mean that addressing our mental health and stress awareness have never been more important.

Despite this, many do not take action to combat stress, or understand the effects it can have on our health. Here, we explore what exactly stress is and provide tips on how to reduce it.

What is stress?

Stress is the body's reaction to feeling threatened or under pressure. It can be motivating to help us achieve things in our daily lives, and can help us meet the demands of home, work and family life.

But too much stress can affect mood, our body and our relationships - especially when it feels out of control. It can make us feel anxious and irritable, and can affect our self-esteem.

Possible causes of stress

Stress affects people differently, and the things that cause stress vary from person to person.

Stressful feelings typically happen when we feel we do not have the resources to manage the challenges we face. Pressures at work, school or home, illness, or difficult or sudden life events can all lead to stress. Some possible causes of stress are:

  • our individual genes, upbringing and experiences
  • difficulties in our personal lives and relationships
  • big or unexpected life changes, like moving house, having a baby or starting to care for someone
  • money difficulties, like debt or struggling to afford daily essentials
  • health issues, either for you or someone close to you
  • pregnancy and children
  • problems with housing, like the conditions, maintenance or tenancy
  • a difficult or troubled work environment
  • feeling lonely and unsupported.

CiC, the providers of our Employee Assistance Programme, have written a guide on understanding stress and anxiety which you may find helpful.

Tips for reducing stress

  • Take control. Even if you can only change something small about your situation, it's a start.
  • Build relationships. If you're feeling stressed, talk to somebody. Reach out to family, a friend, or a mental health professional - the University's Employee Assistance Programme offers an independent, free and confidential counselling service.
  • Take care of your body. Eating healthily, getting plenty of exercise, and establishing regular sleep patterns can all help reduce stress. You may find the NHS guide to getting better sleep and the CiC guide to stress and nutrition helpful.
  • Practice mindfulness. As little as ten minutes of meditation or mindfulness a day has been shown to reduce stress.
  • Help others. It may sound counterintuitive, but studies have shown that volunteering isn't just good for others - it can be good for yourself.

You van find more advice in CiC's collection of stress busting tips.

Evidence suggests that there are 5 steps we can take to improve our mental wellbeing - you can find details of these on our Health & Wellbeing pages. Here, you will also find a visual guide to happier living, and many more resources designed to support you in your wellbeing journey.

if you're currently working on campus, don't forget that we have a wellbeing map for Whiteknights campus, which highlights areas of campus for taking a quiet moment to relax. 

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