Mental Health Awareness Week - don't stress!

14 May 2018

Week commencing Monday 14 May 2018, is Mental Health Awareness Week. Here, Private GP at Spire Washington Hospital, Doctor Maria Finnegan, discusses looking after our Mental Health with a focus on stress management: 

“Stress in and of itself is not a mental health problem. In fact, stress in small doses can be healthy and can drive us to be more efficient. However, stress does develop into a problem when it becomes overwhelming or creates a feeling of constant pressure. 

“In my clinics, stress is one of the most common conditions that I see and it affects everyone from high-flying business people who are chasing targets, to retirees who are feeling overwhelmed with caring for an ill spouse, and everyone in between.

“Some of the common triggers for stress include:

  • Work pressures
  • Falling out with a family member or friend
  • Financial pressures
  • Life-changes such as moving away from home or starting a new job
  • Ill-health - either your own or that of a relative or friend
  • Bereavement

“If stress is allowed to fester, it can manifest into a number of physical or psychological symptoms, and in some cases, it can even lead to feelings of anxiety or depression.

“Common signs to look out for include:

  • Irritability or feelings of anger
  • Reduced concentration
  • Feeling worried or panicky all the time, even if you feel you have no reason to feel like this
  • Feeling overwhelmed by things that previously wouldn’t have bothered you
  • Feeling low in mood
  • Having feelings of low self-worth
  • Having trouble relaxing or separating your thoughts from, for example, work or whatever it is that is causing you stress
  • Using alcohol or drugs to relax
  • Feeling like your muscles are tense
  • Having disturbed sleep
  • Reduced libido

“Tackling and managing stress very much depends on each individual, their circumstances and symptoms, options include:

  • Counselling
  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
  • Mindfulness
  • Medication

“Whilst the medical approach to stress management may differ for every person, there are certain tips which will help to reduce stress levels for everybody and they include:

  • Eating a healthy, balanced diet.
  • Exercising regularly.
  • Not drinking alcohol to relax - there is a lot of evidence that alcohol can actually exacerbate feelings of stress. The same applies for drugs.
  • Open up to friends and family. As the saying goes, “a problem shared is a problem halved” and you’ll be surprised at how many of your friends, family and colleagues will have been through something similar.
  • Keep up your hobbies, be that going for a walk or for a meal with friends - anything that distracts your mind away from what is worrying you.
  • Prioritise sleep.

“Finally, if you are struggling, please go to see your GP and if you are worried about a friend or family member, talk to them.  Health Professionals will always be able to point you in the right direction, and will work with you to get you feeling back to your old self.”

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