This year, Mental Health Awareness Week (14 – 20 May) is shining a spotlight on stress. Here, Jaan Madan looks at five common myths.
Stress is bad for us
Stress is the body’s natural response when it senses danger. We all experience stress and need it to function. So the right amount of stress is healthy and a motivating factor – it’s when it starts to interfere with our lives that it becomes a problem. Too much stress, for too long, can make us ill.
Stress is a mental health condition
Stress in itself is not a mental health condition. But if unaddressed, too much stress for too long can cause mental health issues like depression or anxiety and harm our physical health. One in six adults in Britain experiences depression, anxiety or problems relating to stress at any one time.
You can’t control stress
Whilst it is not always possible to control the sources of stress there are some simple and helpful coping strategies that can make a big difference. Regular exercise, setting aside time to have fun and spending regular time switched off from distractions are just some examples of techniques that can be effective.
Even at times when we’re experiencing more stress than usual, activities to relieve stress can help ensure that issues don’t build up.
Happy events can’t cause stress
It’s not just heavy workloads, money worries, or uncertainty that causes stress. Even happy life events such as having children, getting married or starting a new job can be stressful. It’s important for people to be aware that there are many different factors that can cause people to feel stressed and that we all experience it differently.
You shouldn’t talk about stress at work
Research that reveals only 14% of people feel comfortable talking to a manager about stress. Worryingly, one in ten employees calling in sick with stress gave a different reason. Although there is increased awareness of mental health issues clearly there is more work to do to ensure people are comfortable talking about it in the workplace.
Awareness, talking about mental health openly, is a great first step in creating a mentally healthy organisation. But to better support employees, transform practices and truly embed a whole organisational approach to workplace wellbeing, employers need to offer Mental Health First Aid training.
About the author
Jaan Madan is workplace lead at Mental Health First Aid England