Stress has certainly taken centre stage over the past year. But, while exacerbated by the unusual circumstances we’ve recently faced, the experience of stress (particularly chronic stress) is something that has burdened a huge number of people for a very, very long time.
Stress can seem inconvenient, but there’s actually a whole lot more to it than that. Beyond the way it might impact your life outwardly, the inward health implications and the way stress can quickly snowball into full on anxiety and other concerns is something that’s well worth talking about.
Fortunately, every April since 1992, we’ve been encouraged to do just that for Stress Awareness Month. So it’s time for 2021’s edition.
According to the Mental Health Foundation:
- 74% of UK adults have felt so stressed at some point over the last year they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope.
- 32% of adults said they had experienced suicidal feelings as a result of stress
- 16% of adults said they had self-harmed as a result of stress.
- Stress is impacting young people age 18-24 worst of all
It’s evident that stress is a problem we need to face head-on, but what can we do to lift this weight from our collective shoulders?
The 30 Day Challenge Regaining Connectivity, Certainty and Control
For Stress Awareness Month, stress.org has invited us all to take part in a 30-day challenge to help develop helpful and effective habits for naturally combating stress.
Why 30 days?
Well, aside from being the length of Stress Awareness Month, there is a theory that it takes at least 21 days to form a new habit. This originated from a best-selling book written by Plastic Surgeon Maxwell Maltz. In the book, Psycho-Cybernetics, he wrote about patients needing around 21 days to become accustomed to their new face in the mirror or for an amputee to get used to no longer having their limb.
However, since then research has gone on to suggest it’s more like 60 days to ingrain new behaviours into your being. So, if you enjoy the first 30 days of regaining connectivity, certainty and control, try to continue for another month to keep your new routine firmly in place!
What is the Stress Awareness Month Challenge?
“‘The 30 Day Challenge’ encourages you to pick one action each for your Physical, Mental and Emotional Wellbeing to carry out every day. You could even add actions for your social and spiritual wellness too.” stress.org.uk
It’s time to put your steps towards an overarching sense of wellbeing into action! Our mental health is vitally important – stress can cause an over-release of Cortisol, which suppresses the immune system, increases the number of blood platelets (potentially causing heart disease) and raises blood pressure. This, as well as making you feel emotionally weighed down too. Fortunately, there are many different things you can try to alleviate stress levels and lay the groundwork for more effective stress management in the future.
Laughter is the best medicine!
In a nutshell, stress is when your fight or flight response kicks in and has nowhere to go. Without some sort of release this causes a serious surge of stress hormone cortisol, which suppresses the immune system, increases the number of blood platelets and raises blood pressure.
Laughter is one of the best ways to get your stress out, in a wholly positive way, and save your system from this toxic overload at the same time. Laughing actually shuts off cortisol production and instead, increases antibodies, natural killer cells that wipe out tumours and viruses and Gamma-interferon - a protein that fights disease.
As one action that ticks all three boxes for stress awareness month, call the free ‘Rise & Shine Laughter Line’ Monday – Friday 8am – 8.10am on 0333 3000 310 and then enter the pin number: 55511151 You’ll be connected to the group call with other laughers! Simply take a deep breath and join in.
If that’s too early for you, make a promise to smile at yourself in the mirror every day, for ten seconds. And laugh if you can – even a fake one will help! Smiling kicks off a chemical reaction in the brain, releasing certain hormones including dopamine and serotonin.
Drinks to Soothe
If you’re feeling stressed out, get into the habit of skipping the caffeine and reach for a soothing herbal tea instead.
Caffeine can be a great boost when you’re in need of a pick-me-up, but if you’re already feeling a bit stressed out it can make you feel much worse. On the other hand, teas containing herbs such as chamomile, lemon balm, peppermint and passionflower are wonderful for helping to soothe and relax, which can actually lead to more productivity than being wound up.
Thinking about using CBD oil for stress relief? Take a look at our blog explaining how that works.