The following was taken from survey carried out by YouGov on behalf of the Mental Health Foundation in 2018 in which 4169 people were surveyed in the UK
The results are as follows:
- 74% of adults said they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope at some point in the past year
- 32% of adults said they had experienced suicidal feelings as a result of stress
- 16% of adults said they have self-harmed as a result of stress
- 82% of adults feel stress at least some time during a typical week
- 8% of adults said they felt stressed all the time
As a result of stress:
- 46% adults reported to eat too much or eat unhealthily
- 29% adults reported to have started drinking or increase their drinking
- 16% adults reported to have started smoking or increase their smoking
So how does stress affect the body?
When the body encounters a stressor the hypothalamic-pituitary- adrenal axis is stimulated into producing the stress hormones cortisol and catecholamines that trigger the ‘fight or flight’ response. Th immune system is also activated to prepare for possible injury. This process helps the body to respond to dangerous situation quickly.
There are many effects of stress on our bodies
There is a strong connection between cardiovascular disease and stress, stressful living conditions or circumstances, working conditions have all been linked to high blood pressure, development of diabetes and ischaemic heart disease such as angina.
Stress also affects the immune system as prolonged or frequent activation of the stress response disrupts healthy immune system. This is more problematic for the elderly as the immune function declines with age making it harder to fight off viral infections. One of the first signs of chronic stress can be experiencing frequent short illnesses. The effects of chronic stress are connected to inflammation in the body which recent research suggest that it may be a causative factor for depression. Long-term stress can affect the gastrointestinal system as our brain activity and gut are closely interconnected. Irritable bowel syndrome is associated with psychosocial stressors for example work related stress, money problems, lack of social support.
Stress can have a negative impact on mental health, stressful life events have been found to be associated with depressive symptoms and onset of major depression, suicide, suicidal thoughts and self-harm.
- 51% of adults who felt stressed reported to depressed
- 61% of adults reported to feeling anxious
- 16% of adults had self-harmed
- 32% of adults had suicidal thoughts or feelings
Stress plays a role in exacerbating existing mental health problems for example people living with severe and enduring mental health problems stress can precipitate symptoms and potentially result and relapse for example stressful life events have been found to be associated with acute relapse of Schizophrenia
37% of adults who felt stressed reported feeling lonely
What makes us stressed?
There are many factors that can act as stressors
- The death of a loved one
- Unexpected money problems
- Long-term health conditions
- Technology and social media
Not all stressful life events are negative for example:
- Getting married
- Having a baby
- 30% of adults said they were stressed at work
- 72% of adults had concerns about pay
- 60% of adults had concerns about paying household bills
- 22% of adults were stress due to debt
How can we manage our stress?
- Realise when it is becoming problem and identify the causes – by making the connection between feeling tired or ill with pressures you are faced with. By not ignoring physical warning such as tensed muscles over tiredness headaches or migraines. Sort the possible reasons for your stress into those with a practical solution, those that will get better anyway given time and those that you can’t do anything about. Take control by taking small steps towards things you can improve.
- Review your lifestyle – are you taking on too much? Are there things you are doing which could be handed over to someone else? Can you do things in a more leisurely way? You may need to prioritize things you are trying to achieve and re organise your life so that you are not trying to do everything at once.
- Build supportive relationships and social networks – find close friends or family who can offer help and practical advice to support you to reduce your stress. Joining a club or enrolling on a course are good ways to expand your social networks and to encourage you to do something different. Equally activities like volunteering can change your perspective and helping others have a beneficial impact on your mood.
- Eat healthily – a healthy diet will reduce the risk of diet related diseases. Also, there is a growing amount of evidence showing that how food affects our mood feelings of well-being can be protected by ensuring that our diet provides adequate amounts of nutrients such as essential vitamins and minerals as well as water.
- Be aware of your smoking drinking and caffeine intake – even though they may seem to reduce tension this is misleading as they make problems worse alcohol and caffeine can increase feelings of anxiety.
- Exercise – physical exercise can be an excellent initial approach to managing the effects of stress. Even going out to get some fresh air and taking some light physical exercise like walking to the shops can help when you feel stressed you do not need to do much walking 15 to 20 minutes three times a week as it is good way to feel better.
- Take time out – take time to relax saying I’m just can’t take time off is no use if you are forced to take time off later through ill-health striking a balance between responsibility to others and to yourself is vital in reducing stress levels.
- Be mindful – Mindfulness Meditation can be practised anywhere at any time. Research has suggested that it can be helpful for managing and reducing the effects of stress anxiety and other related problems such as Insomnia poor concentration and low moods, in some people.
- Get some restful sleep – sleeping problems are common when you’re suffering from stress try to ensure you get enough rest. Writing down your to-do list for the next day can be useful and helping you to prioritize but also to park these plans before bed.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself – try to keep things in perspective. Look for things in your life that are positive and write down things that make you feel grateful.