Stress Awareness Month
April is Stress Awareness Month. It is organised and supported by The Stress Management Society and has been held every year since 1992 to raise awareness of the causes and cures of modern stress.
The last two years have been exceptionally challenging. Our health and social care services have been stretched to and often beyond their limits. And this of course has seen counselling and mental health services inundated by people struggling and seeking support.
It’s really important that all our staff look after themselves and we encourage everybody across Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland to take some time out.
This year’s stress awareness theme is community. Lack of support can cause loneliness and isolation, which in turn lowers people’s wellbeing, impacts mental health and can lead to mental illness. Social isolation is an important risk factor for both deteriorating mental health and suicide. As we emerge from the pandemic, it’s vital that the community support experienced by many people during this challenging time continues. Although restrictions have mainly been lifted, people need support now more than ever as they adjust to a new way of living.
The pandemic has had a hugely detrimental effect on the nation’s mental health and sense of community. Disrupted social lives, the cancellation of large gatherings, travel restrictions and working from home have kept us in one place for long periods of time. However, one of the positives to emerge from this unparalleled situation has been the community spirit and support shown by so many to so many.
Why is community important?
Humans are not designed to exist in isolation. We are social animals and relationships are important for our wellbeing. People who are more socially connected to family, friends, or their community are happier, physically healthier and live longer, with fewer mental health problems. Higher levels of social cohesion has been proven to lower rates of mental health problems.
Socialising has multiple benefits. Playing a sport, doing a hobby class or volunteering, all give meaning and purpose to our lives and make us more confident. Having the opportunity to laugh and chat with others in social situations serves to temporarily distract us from our worries by turning our focus outwards instead of inwards. And being able to talk through problems and share our worries with others decreases our stress levels.
Volunteering may be especially good for reducing stress because it turns our focus outwards. Helping others with their problems, can help us gain a more positive perspective on our own difficulties. Plus, there are the associated benefits of working together with other like-minded people to achieve a worthwhile goal. These factors all weigh heavily on the positive side of the mental health spectrum, and so increase our mental wellbeing while uniting in us in a shared sense of purpose.
The sress in the West
Western societies tend to have a higher incidence of poor mental health and low self-esteem than those in developing countries. This is partly because the defining qualities of modern Western culture are materialism and individualism. But the importance we assign to money and possessions doesn’t make us happy. Instead, it leads to dissatisfaction, depression, anxiety, isolation and alienation, and while these values predominate, our human need for autonomy and connection with others remains relatively unfulfilled.
Developing and less prosperous nations tend to have a greater sense of community than the West, and consequently they don’t struggle with mental ill-health to the same degree.
The Stress Awareness Month 30 Day challenge
Repetiton turns actions into habits, so why not follow this month-long programme and maximise your chances of turning useful knowledge and techniques into positive behavoural change?
Stress Awareness Month community infographic (PDF, 10.4MB)
Daily de-stressing planner (PDF, 234KB)
30 Day Challenge – hints, tips and tricks (PDF, 647KB)
30 Day challenge calendar (PDF, 675KB)