Stress – we all know what it feels like…and we can all personally give hope and support to others if we choose to.
We’ve all had a tough year with the COVID pandemic bringing our normal lives to a standstill. We may have been touched directly by the virus, either getting it ourselves, or watching the ones we love suffer. We have had to cope with not going to work, not socialising with family and friends, not going out and being cooped up at home. We may have had the additional stress of financial worry and job insecurity. We may have had to cope with home-schooling, as well as working from home.
According to the Mental Health Foundation*, in the past year, 74% of people have felt so stressed that they have been overwhelmed or unable to cope. 51% of adults who felt stressed reported feeling depressed and 61% reported feeling anxious. And, of course, these symptoms often manifest themselves through poor eating habits, excessive alcohol consumption, lack of exercise and increased levels of smoking.
For whatever, reason, it’s fairly safe to assume that nearly everyone has felt stressed over the past 12 months for some reason or another, each of us trying to find ways of coping. And now that we are facing the prospect of emerging from lockdown, there are those who feel anxious about reconnecting with the outside world and the potential risks that might lay ahead. Others may just feel nervous about interacting again face to face with others, having got so out of practice. And don’t forget all the dogs that have got so used to us being at home all the time and who will now face more time alone during the day.
Often the difficulty with stress is that it presents so differently in people and it’s hard to spot. Asking someone if they are alright is often met with “I’m fine” and this can hide a whole host of anxieties. There have been some high-profile programmes and articles recently about people who have become silently vulnerable. Roman Kemp’s recent TV programme on male suicide is just one example. We all need support from time to time and often it’s very hard to reach out for help, especially when there is so much suffering around and our problems don’t feel important enough.
So, in Stress Awareness Month, let’s all just have a think about people we know – our family members, our friends, our work colleagues and even our dogs – and make sure we reach out to them and offer the hand of friendship and support. Everyone has their own journey and there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution, but sometimes just being there to listen and sympathise can be the start of a recovery and the beginning of a more positive and optimistic future. And we all deserve that don’t we?
* Mental Health Foundation -Mental health statistics: Stress