30 May 2019

“Don’t struggle alone with stress, make sure you reach out for support” says local mental health trust as Game of Thrones star, Kit Harrington, seeks support.

Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership (AWP) NHS Trust are encouraging those struggling with stress and their mental health to self-refer to stress management courses available through local IAPT services.

Stress can has been linked and is a significant contributing factor to both mental and physical ill health, not only is stress linked to anxiety and depression but also physical health problems such as heart disease, insomnia, immune deficiency and digestive problems.

'Stress' is the way that our bodies and minds react when we are struggling to cope with the demands of everyday life, important or distressing events or big changes in our lives. The symptoms of stress can include draining emotions, physical symptoms and changes in how our bodies work.

Head of Psychological Therapies, Claire Williamson, said: "What causes stress to one person will not necessarily cause stress to another, similarly issues that are in and of themselves relatively minor can grow to become stressful should they persist over long periods. We can all be affected by stress, whether we work in a shop, office or on stage and screen.

"Events or life changes, which are widely considered positive like the birth of a new baby or a marriage, can also be sources of great stress to those involved in their organisation and delivery, in this way stress can also give rise to feelings of guilt and confusion in not enjoying the process."

How can I cope with stress?

Talk to friends and family about your feelings - stress may alter the way you interact with people, so it is important to discuss how you feel with those around you. Talking about how you are feeling and the causes of those feelings will give others the opportunity to make allowances for you and provide you with emotional and practical support.

Breaking down large tasks - making lists of tasks or issues with actions to tackle them, making timetables to address work or personal commitments, setting small goals rather than large projects can really help reduce a sense of being overwhelmed by a situation.

Look after your physical health - skipping meals, and eating foods with a high sugar content can cause sugar and hormone levels to change drastically affecting how you feel both mentally and physically.

• Find practical help - depending on the situation it is not always possible to deal with the practical causes of stress yourself. It is important to look at the help available to you, occupational health services at work or external services such as the Citizens Advice Bureau.

• Set aside time - creating more structure in your life and allocating regular time to pursuing activities that bring you joy can also help alleviate stress and add to your sense of wellbeing.

Claire added: "Stress can be tackled. Through psycho-educational courses, similar to evening classes, facilitators can teach the tools and techniques to help you build a more structured approach to dealing with stress such as ways of changing the unhelpful thought patterns that can sometimes emerge when under stress, or addressing the bodily feelings of stress."

Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) services provide a range of courses that address the causes of stress and ill mental health helping the service user to build up the tools to cope with stress factors within their day-to-day life. We are reminding members of the public that they are able to refer themselves to IAPT courses through directly contacting their counties IAPT website, with no need to see a GP for a referral.

If you are feeling overwhelmed by stress, seeking professional help from a GP or IAPT service can support you in managing your feelings and stressors, many people feel reluctant to seek help as they feel that it is an admission of failure. It is important recognise that when you are feeling stressed and beginning to struggle with your mental health, accessing help early on means a quicker recovery and can help prevent a decline in mental wellbeing.

For more information on IAPT services in your area, visit the AWP website here: /services/specialist/primary-care-psychology-services/

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