New ways of dissolving the 'stress epidemic'
The rise of stress
The headlines for recent news stories on the subject of stress pretty much illustrate just how big an issue the condition has become over the last few years, and how the prevalence of stress has continued to increase:
The stress factor that’s costing the UK £10billion a year (Daily Mail, July 2013)
Stress is endemic in local government (The Guardian, July 2013)
Heart disease risk increased by work stress and unhealthy lifestyle (FemaleFirst, July 2013)
And of course many of us do suffer from stress from time to time. In fact, according to figures from leading UK mental health charity MIND, one in six people in the workplace are affected by stress, anxiety or depression at any one time in this country. Which means that even if you're not affected by any of these conditions, chances are that you will know someone who is.
The rise in stress - hospital admissions due to the condition increased by 7% in 2012 - is believed (at least partly) to be down to factors connected to the recession. There are reports of people working longer hours and feeling the pressure of work more keenly in an employment context where jobs are more scarce than previously and of course there have been ongoing redundancies in many industries. All of which is bound to affect stress levels.
These days there is improving awareness of mental health in the workplace, and in addition there are more and more employers promoting mentally healthy workplaces as part of their wellbeing strategy. When there's a lot of competition to recruit and retain the best talent, it makes sense for employers to do all they can to help minimise stress, since this also leads to better productivity and fewer instances of sickness absence. Job contract benefits such as employee assistance programmes and private medical cover also mean that there is better support for the workforce, often in the form of helplines to call when in need of information or support.
One result of openness regarding mental health in the workplace is that stigma surrounding mental health issues has lessened to a very great degree, and the chances are that this means people are far more likely to seek assistance or diagnosis for problems such as stress or depression. This could also be one of the reasons for higher numbers of people reporting feelings of stress in surveys as well as seeking medical help.
Dealing with stress
If you are experiencing problems and feel you need advice, then of course it's important to seek the advice of a health professional. There are, however, also lots of good places on the web intended for informational purposes, and with lots of tips on stress reduction. Please see our Anxiety section. Elsewhere on the web we recommend NHS Choices and private medical insurance providers all have pages devoted to the subject.
One method for reducing stress that's been widely publicised lately is mindfulness meditation. It's a simple technique and doesn't require any specialist knowledge to undertake, and is even believed to have physical benefits for the brain. The Mental health Foundation even has a site for mindfulness at bemindful.co.uk where you can find out all about the technique and what it involves. The site also has links to mindfulness training courses at various locations in the UK as well as information on resources such as books, audio and video on the subject.
Dissolving stress isn't something that has a 'silver bullet' solution - it's mix of creating mentally healthy workplaces conducive to stress-reduced working, along with all of us as individuals identifying our stressors and finding ways to counteract it productively. It's also a holistic thing, and much of the standard -issue healthy living advice also helps in keeping stress to a minimum - getting enough rest and enough exercise, eating well and keeping to recommended alcohol consumption all have an important part to play.
For more information on stress, please check out the AXA PPP healthcare website’s Healthy Mind section for factsheets, articles and more.