Mental Health Week 2018 (14 – 20 May)

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Mental Health Week 2018 (14 – 20 May)

This years’ Mental Health Week focuses on stress – a common response most of us experience.

Stress refers to the degree in which you feel overwhelmed or unable to cope as a result of pressures that are uncontrollable.

Contrary to wide belief, stress isn’t necessarily a negative thing. From the dawn of time, stress acted as a means of survival. Our cavemen ancestors for example, used the signal of stress as a means of recognising potential danger.

In the modern world, instances of stress commonly occur due to things such as work, money and relationships. It can be triggered by sudden events such as unexpected deadlines or major disturbances such as divorce.

Find out 6 health benefits of cycling, here.

How can I identify the signs of stress?

We all experience stress now and again. And while it affects each of us differently, there are common signs and symptoms you can look out for:

  • Feelings of constant worry or anxiety
  • Feelings of being overwhelmed
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Mood swings or changes in your mood
  • Irritability or having a short temper
  • Difficulty relaxing
  • Depression
  • Low self-esteem
  • Eating more or less than usual
  • Changes in your sleeping habits
  • Using alcohol, tobacco or illegal drugs to relax
  • Aches and pains, particularly muscle tension
  • Diarrhoea and constipation
  • Feelings of nausea or dizziness
  • Loss of sex drive

7 steps to help protect yourself from stress

Eat healthily

  • Evidence shows how eating healthily can improve our mood
  • You can protect your feelings of wellbeing by ensuring that your diet provides adequate amounts of brain nutrients such as essential vitamins and minerals, as well as water

Reduce smoking and drinking alcohol

  • Try to avoid or at least reduce the amount you smoke and drink
  • The most unhelpful thing you can do to cope with stress, is to turn to something unhealthy
  • Although they may seem to reduce stress initially, they often make problems worse down the line


  • Include physical exercise into your lifestyle as it helps clear your thoughts
  • Physical activity releases endorphins which can positively change your mood

Have some ‘me time’

  • Take time out to unwind – socialising, relaxing or exercising
  • By prioritising self-care and spending time doing things you really enjoy you can reduce stress levels

Practice mindfulness

  • Paying more attention to the present moment – to your own thoughts and feelings can improve your mental wellbeing
  • Accept the things you can’t change and focus on things you can control

Get some restful sleep

  • Can you make some changes to your lifestyle to help improve sleep? For example, avoid your caffeine intake and reduce the amount of time on your phone or laptop before bed

Challenge yourself

  • And lastly, challenging yourself helps you deal with stress
  • By continuing to learn, you become emotionally resilient as you wish to do active things rather than watch TV

Mood self-assessment

Unsure how you’re really feeling? Check your mood with this simple NHS questionnaire and get advice on what might help.

Anxiety UK. “Stress.” Available at:
NHS 10 stress busters. Available at