All of us can probably recall feeling stressed or anxious at some time or other. Research has shown that around 12 million adults in the UK see their GP with mental health problems each year. Most of those seeking help are suffering from anxiety or depression, much of it stress related. Some 13.3 million working days are lost each year in the UK due to stress, depression and anxiety.
Stress can be described as a feeling of pressure or tension from a life event; that could be work or deadlines, feeling bullied, moving house, debt, exams, illness, divorce… the list of stressful life events is seemingly endless.
However, there are two very different types of stress: that which motivates us and that which paralyses us. It is this latter stress that is most damaging to our mental and physical wellbeing.
So how do you know if stress is affecting your health?
Stress may be a problem if you are feeling…
• anxious, nervous or afraid
• irritable, aggressive, impatient or wound up
• like your thoughts are racing and you can’t switch off
• unable to enjoy yourself
• depressed or uninterested in life
• like you’ve lost your sense of humour
• a sense of dread
• worried about your health
• neglected or lonely
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you may be finding it hard to make decisions, unable to concentrate, or are perhaps feeling fearful and crying.
But if you have no control over what is causing stress in your life, how do you regain control over how you react to difficult situations?
There are four main tools for helping to alleviate stress:
Talking treatments, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), which helps you to gain control over how you react to stressful situations.
Medication, including the short-term use of anti-anxiety drugs, available only on prescription from your GP.
Ecotherapy, in other words getting away from urban, stressful environments and spending time in more peaceful green spaces, for example spending time gardening, walking, or working in conservation.
Complementary therapies, including aromatherapy, massage and mediation.
While none of the above methods can get rid of your source of stress, they can affect how you react to life events, leaving you better able to cope.
Colleen Harte, clinical aromatherapist and founder of the Lucy Annabella aromatherapy bath and beauty range, says: "Aromatherapy really helps so many day-to-day challenges, such as stress, an overactive mind and difficulty sleeping. You can easily incorporate essential oil blends into your daily life – you can use them in the bath, shower, on an oil burner, in a bowl of hot water, or many of the blends you can simply apply to pulse points."
Here is Colleen's advice for helping to calm a stressed mind and soothe a stressed body.
Soak away your stress "Have a bath and add essential oils that are uplifting, such as spearmint, lemon grass or patchouli. You can add these essential oils (up to six drops) into half a pint of milk (soya, almond or dairy) and add to the bath; by adding milk it will help your skin as well."
Get back to nature "Prevent burn-out and take at least five minutes a day to yourself and try to get into nature. Whether it's a stroll in the park or a potter in the garden, take the time."
Have a massage "Citrus oils are known to give an immediate boost, but it is often a spike of energy. Herbal oils are better and last longer. I recommend marjoram or rosemary or vetiver, they all provide a more sustained effect. If you can, have a massage to allow your body to unwind. If not, add the essential oils to water and spritz."
• Visit mind.org.uk for more advice.
Read the feature in HELLO! out now.