Stress Awareness Month: How Staying Active Can Help Reduce Stress
Since 1992, National Stress Awareness Month has been held throughout April in attempts raise awareness for the causes and cures of stress and anxiety. According to the Mental Health Foundation, 74% of UK adults have felt so stressed at some point over the last year they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope.
“Individually we need to understand what is causing us personal stress and learn what steps we can take to reduce it for ourselves and those around us,” Mental Health Foundation Director, Isabella Goldie said.
It’s important to us here at Freestak to promote healthy, active living which includes open discussion around stress. We not only want to encourage candidness around the topic but also want to play a role in helping those who may be struggling.
Being a part of a community allows for many opportunities to help one another and share our personal stories. Because of this, we are grateful to be able to share four stories from Freestak content creators whose willingness to be open will benefit many.
Matthew shared with us how important it is for people to understand that it’s ok to not be ok and to concentrate on the good things happening in life rather than the bad things.
“I received a text from my mum on a Monday while at work asking for me to come over once I’d finished. I said yes, no problem. Straight away I knew something was wrong. She then proceeds to tell me she has breast cancer. I was in shock, not something I expected to here from my own mum. This was horrible news as you could imagine. A couple of weeks had past and she was feeling positive which is great. I then found out I’ll be losing my job, so will my brother as we work at the same place. This was frustrating for me but my mum got really worried about us and it didn’t help her.”
This was a tough period in Matthew’s life, and nothing he’d experienced before. During this time, he had been running for slightly over a year and just started his training for the Manchester Marathon. This had him running 6 days a week – 50-60 miles, while working full time knowing he’ll be losing that job, and with his mum ill.
This is when running seriously helped me mentally. Running helped me forget the negatives. It helped me focus on the positives.
Thankfully, Matthew’s mum is doing great now. His story shows us that being active will not only allow you to open your mind to think freely and positively, but it helps you realize that things will be OK.
“One thing I would say to anyone going through a tough time is to get active and speak about it,” he said. “People will support you.”
Michael tends to work in very stressful environments, and to help cope with these situations, he makes sure to separate personal time from work.
“Like everyone else I have times where I need to stay late at work, but I’m always sure to put myself first. If someone brings me a task that will hinder me, I’m not afraid to say no. I don’t focus on work during my personal time. I switch off my work emails after I leave the office and always make sure I get the chance to fit in something I enjoy during my evenings. I find getting home and going to sleep to get up to work is detrimental. I find breaking that time up with sport, exercise or socializing can make a big impact.”
Maintaining emphasis on both working and living your life are really important to Michael. Work is often a stressful environment for many, and it’s crucial to make the distinction between work and personal time.
Sports and training are amazing outlets Michael uses to manage stress. He always makes it a habit to workout on a Monday in order to help start the week right and get over that ‘back to work’ feeling.
“Always make time for yourself because you are important too!” he said.
Bertille is an outdoor enthusiast, passionate about sports, climate activism and feminism, and is always ready for an adventure. Though, amidst her active lifestyle, she often struggles with stress and anxiety.
“I am a worrier. I worry all the time and have been especially since I was in high school. I can have a lot of trouble falling asleep, I am also very aware of people’s way of seeing me, and it can be time consuming, tiring and unhealthy.”
To help cope with these feelings, Bertille looked to meditation. She has been using Headspace for more than a year, and found it to help her tremendously.
Alongside yoga as well, Bertille also found that participating in sports helps her feel 10 times better. She finds it as a place where she can feel herself and feel better.
“Even when I don’t feel like it, I try and go for a run or do something that gets me moving,” she said, “and it usually shifts the way I see things and gives me perspective.
After the end of a previous relationship, Liam fell into somewhat of a dark place that left him struggling to stay motivated. He shows us how the outdoors played a role in helping him get back on track.
“I was out drinking a lot, lost interest in studying and work. I really felt like I had been thrown off my path. I didn’t have a goal. One morning I decided I wanted to climb a mountain, on the 28th of December 2016 I went up Ben Lomond, a Munro summit. I did it again on the 2nd of January and counted this as my first Munro, by the end of January I had bagged 10 Scottish Munros, by the end of February I had bagged 24 Munros and by the 2nd of May I had bagged 50.”
Liam found something he felt free doing. When he was out hill walking, nothing else mattered, “no stress, no work issues, no thoughts, just a clear head,” he said.
During these moments, Liam was seeing amazing views and wanted to share his experiences. This led to photography. He wanted to inspire others to head for the outdoors and feel the difference it could make for them.
From deciding to do that hill, it’s opened up a new world for me. I found ME, this is who I am, and I don’t know why I never started sooner.
We want to send a big thank you to everyone who shared their story with us. Being open and honest about stress and how we each cope is monumental in spreading awareness.
Here is some advice from the Stress Management Society to help manage stress and raise awareness:
- Talk about stress and its effects – work together to reduce the stigma that is associated with stress by talking about the topic openly and freely with friends, family and colleagues.
- Share your coping mechanisms – if something has worked for you, share it. It might benefit someone you care about and help take focus off your own challenges.
- Be nice to those who are stressed and anxious – treat others going through stressful times with compassion and empathy.
- Look after yourself – think more about self-care. Take time out of your day to relax or do something that you enjoy, and say no to requests that are too much.
“Don’t forget to exercise and eat well, even when you feel too stressed.”
We encourage you all to share your story and reach out to those who may be struggling. Each step we take in sharing our stories can be one step towards helping ourselves or someone else.