Tuesday 22nd October 2019
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Mental health and stress

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Your mental health

Mental health is about the way we think and feel and our ability to deal with life’s ups and downs. Unfortunately we can’t avoid all stresses and strains in life, and we can’t control everything that happens to us.

However, it is important to understand that there are lots of things we can do to help ourselves to develop good mental health and to manage how we respond to situations to minimise risks to our health and wellbeing.

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There are lots of things we can do to help ourselves to develop good mental health and to manage how we respond to situations to minimise risks to our health and wellbeing. 
 
The Mental Health Foundation provides advice and information about how to look after your mental health. You can read about the top ten tips to look after your mental health here
 
​​​​​​​​​​​One in six adults in Britain will experience depression, anxiety or problems relating to stress at any one time. Recognising and understanding what causes us stress and taking action to manage our stress levels is a key part of looking after our wellbeing.
 
Mental Health First Aid England​ (MHFAE) provides details of how you can address your stress, see below for more details.

What is stress?

Stress is a feeling of being under abnormal pressure, whether from an increased workload, an argument with a friend or family member, or financial worries. It is our body's natural response when it senses danger. We all experience stress and need it to function.

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The signs of stress

Too much stress over a long period of time can negatively affect your life, health and wellbeing, so it is important to tackle it as soon as possible. Stress affects people differently but here are some common signs and symptoms to look out for:
  • ​feelings of constant worry or anxiety
  • feelings of being overwhelmed
  • difficulty concentrating
  • mood swings or changes in mood
  • irritability or having a short temper
  • difficulty relaxing
  • depression
  • low self-esteem
  • eating more or less than usual
  • changes in 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
This is not an exhaustive list but if you experience any of these symptoms for a prolonged period of time, and they are affecting your daily life or making you feel unwell, you should speak to your GP who can provide advice and information about the support services and treatments available to you.

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Sources of stress

Stress can come from many sources. Mental Health First Aid England (MHFAE) lists some below, but it’s important to remember that even positive life events like births and weddings can bring considerable stress.

Life changes:

  • ​leaving home, getting married or having children
  • relationship breakdown or divorce
  • bereavement
  • health scares

Emotional:

  • coping with uncertainty
  • conflicting cultural values and beliefs
  • peer pressure (colleagues or friends)

Physical:

  • ​poor diet
  • alcohol or drugs misuse
  • late nights or lack of routine

Environmental:

  • ​accommodation problems
  • unemployment
  • financial pressures
  • social isolation

Changes at work:

  • ​starting a new job
  • coping with an increased workload
  • poor relationships with colleagues or managers
  • redundancy or fear of it

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Address your stress

What we eat and drink and the exercise we undertake is important. While many of us enjoy a drink, it is worth remembering that overdoing alcohol can bring on depressed moods and anxiety and is associated with an increased risk of suicide.
 
Eating fresh healthy food and sleeping well on the other hand can make a huge difference to your overall mood and wellbeing, and there is ample evidence linking exercise with better mental health. Luton residents can get advice and support to improve their physical and emotional health at Total Wellbeing Luton
 
You also might want to look at the Five Ways to Wellbeing, an evidence-based approach developed by the New Economics Foundation and endorsed by leading mental health charities such as Mind. These principles are also included in some practical advice from Mental Health First Aid England. 

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Need help

If you are concerned that you are developing a mental health problem you should seek the advice and support of your GP as a matter of priority. If you are in distress and need immediate help and are unable to see a GP, you should visit your local A&E.
 
If you are having thought of suicide or self harm you can call The Samaritans.​
 
Below are details of services and organisations that offer help and support directly to people with mental health problems:

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Younger than 18?

Support is available via Chat Health. 11 to 19 year olds can text the Luton Community Health services school nurse team on 07520 616070 for advice and support on all aspects of health & wellbeing such as:
 
  • Mental health
  • Healthy eating
  • Relationships

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