The theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is Stress. Mental Health Awareness Week is from 14-20 May 2018.
Stress is one of the most common conditions we treat at Private Psychiatry. Everyone suffers from stress at some point in their lives. Most people find ways to manage their stress effectively, perhaps though exercise, relaxation classes, socialising or better time planning. When stress is not managed though, the cumulative effect of a build up of stress hormones can lead to symptoms such as problems sleeping, finding it difficult to concentrate or irritability. Learning to recognise and manage high stress levels early can often prevent the need for intensive intervention.
Using a diary to record physical and emotional feelings and the circumstances surrounding them can help people to see patterns in their stress levels. Recording what you were doing, who you were with and what you were thinking, as well as how you felt for each episode of stress and making a note of anything you were able to do to overcome those feelings can be very helpful. After keeping the diary for a period of several weeks you can analyse it to isolate the most frequent causes of your stress and the most effective behaviours to deal with it.
There are many online tools to help with stress management which can be a good starting point if your stress is mild. If self-help methods prove inadequate, the next step is usually a visit to your GP armed with your diary. They will be able to recommend additional treatment for you, probably in the form of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) which is a type of therapy that helps you manage your problems by changing the way you respond to situations in both thought and behaviour. Mindfulness can also be an effective way of calming and reducing stress – by concentrating on the here and now and enjoying the moment rather than worrying about any problems. This is a form of transcendental meditation, where a mantra is used.
When stress has built up over a longer period of time or is accompanied by other conditions such as depression, anxiety, panic attacks or addictions, it may be necessary to seek specialist help for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan. This may include some form of medication such as antidepressants or anti-anxiety drugs. Recommendations for lifestyle changes and talking therapies may also be given.
Learning to deal with stress on a day to day basis can seem like an impossible task. By taking the first step in dealing with it by sharing your feelings with someone, undertaking an activity such as yoga, taking time to relax, or by starting a stress diary, you can be well on your way to managing and dealing with your stress before it becomes a major issue.
If stress does become unmanageable on your own and begins to have too much of an effect on your daily life and on those around you, we at Private Psychiatry can help – contact us to make an appointment with one of our consultant psychiatrists.