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  • Writer's pictureEmma Armstrong

Stress Awareness Month @ T.E.A Training

All too often, we take stress for granted, we just accept that being stressed is the norm and we do not always realise the damaging effects stress can have on our Health and Well - being, especially when we are physically and mentally exhausted.

The Stress management society recently collaborated with Huawei App Gallery to conduct a study on stress, gathering data from 2000 British adults. The research identified that 65% of people in the UK have felt more stressed since the COVID-19 restrictions began in March 2020. The three key causes for concern are feelings of disconnection, uncertainty, and a worrying loss of control.

Okay, So, Stress, is it always a bad thing? What is stress anyway?

Stress is primarily a physical response. When stressed, the body thinks it is under attack and switches to ‘fight or flight’ mode, releasing a complex mix of hormones and chemicals such as adrenaline, cortisol and norepinephrine to prepare the body for physical action. This causes a number of reactions, from blood being diverted to muscles to shutting down unnecessary bodily functions such as digestion.

Through the release of hormones such as adrenaline, cortisol and norepinephrine, the caveman gained a rush of energy, which prepared him to either fight the tiger or run away.

That heart pounding, fast breathing sensation is the adrenaline; as well as a boost of energy, it enables us to focus our attention so we can quickly respond to the situation.

In the modern world, the ‘fight or flight’ mode can still help us survive dangerous situations, such as reacting swiftly to a person running in front of our car by slamming on the brakes.

The challenge is when our body goes into a state of stress in inappropriate situations. When blood flow is going only to the most important muscles needed to fight or flee, brain function is minimised.

This can lead to an inability to ‘think straight’; a state that is a great hindrance in both our work and home lives. If we are kept in a state of stress for long periods, it can be detrimental to our health. The results of having elevated cortisol levels can be an increase in sugar and blood pressure levels, and a decrease in libido.

We all experience stress as part of daily life. It’s our body’s natural response when we feel under threat – from life and death situations to an overdue library book.

But too much stress can be harmful. As the NHS puts it, it can ‘affect our mood, our body and our relationships – especially when it feels out of our control. It can make us feel anxious and irritable and affect our self-esteem.’

T.E.A Training have put together some tips to help you lower your everyday stress to a more manageable level. However, if you constantly feel overwhelmed you should consider seeking further support.

Get talking

‘A problem shared is a problem halved.’ It’s a cliché, but it happens to be true. Often just talking about what’s been on your mind can feel like a weight has lifted from your shoulders.

Bring up the subject with someone you trust and ask for their advice. Friends, family or colleagues can bring a fresh perspective and encourage you to see the problem in a different light. Even sharing a similar experience can make you feel you’re not alone.

If you can’t think of anyone suitable to talk to, check with your employer to see if they offer an Employee Assistance Programme. This is a confidential 24/7 phone line where you can speak with a trained advisor about anything that’s worrying you and get actionable advice. There’s also an option to see a professional counsellor if needed.

Make a plan

Nothing adds to a stressful situation like feeling there’s nothing you can do to change it. Taking stock of the situation, however scary it may feel, is the first step to establishing control.

There is always a way forward. Sit down, write out a plan – however rough – of steps you might take to improve the situation.

Small steps are fine if that feels like a more achievable way of tackling whatever is causing you stress, for example, if you feel overloaded at work, start with something as small as asking your line manager for a chat. You can then bring up that you’re finding things tough at the moment and work together towards a solution.

Make a "Not to Do list"

We often heavily focus on everything all at once, and this can sometimes make us feel more foggy – overwhelmed and more anxious.

Look at your list and ask yourself – what DOES NOT have to be done today? What can be delegated? What can wait? Place this on your “Not to do” list and focus on what’s important for today.

Look after yourself

Eating healthily, staying hydrated, getting enough sleep and exercising regularly are all crucial for our mental wellbeing, but often these routines go out the window when we’re feeling stressed. We may struggle to sleep or find time for exercise, and crave sugary or fatty foods as a short-term way of boosting our mood.

Again, taking small steps is a good way to start regaining control. For instance, if a vigorous exercise routine feels unrealistic right now, even a ten-minute walk in the fresh air can clear your head and burn off some nervous energy.

Starting small

When we’re under stress, it can feel difficult to break out of our routines, even if they are actually part of the problem. Making small positive changes will start to reduce your stress levels and help you prioritise your mental wellbeing.

Mental Health First Aid

Whenever people face mental health issues resulting from Stress, loss of a loved one, trauma, or any other reason, they need to talk about it in order to heal. To talk, they need willing listeners.

Unfortunately, many of us try to avoid listening to people in pain. We may feel like we have enough troubles of our own or be afraid of making matters worse by saying the wrong thing.

What typically happens sometimes is that we excuse ourselves by assuming that listening to people who are hurting is strictly a matter for professionals. Professionals can help in special ways and provide the suffering individual with insights that most of us are not able to offer.

But to get that help, individuals in crisis often need guidance. It is natural to feel reluctant or even afraid of facing another person’s painful feelings. But it is important not to let this fear prevent us from doing what we can to help someone who is suffering.

Mental Health First Aid Just as CPR guides someone with no medical experience in assisting a friend, family member, co-worker or even strangers with a physical crisis, Mental Health First Aid helps you assist someone experiencing a mental health crisis, such as suicidal ideation or substance use issues. In both situations, the goal is to help support the victim until appropriate professional help is identified.

Mental Health First Aid follows three basic steps:

• Recognize the signs and symptoms of mental health problems

• Intervene to provide initial help

• Guide the person to appropriate professional help

At T.E.A Training we run instruction classes in Mental Health First Aid certification, which teach participants to assess risk, listen to and support a person in crisis, and identify appropriate professional help and other support.

Even without certification, however, there are some simple things anyone can do to help someone dealing with a mental health crisis.

What to do in a crisis situation

Although each situation is unique, the most important thing to do is simply be there and listen and show you care.

• Find a private setting where you will not be overheard or interrupted. Arrange things so there are no large objects, such as a desk, between you and the person. It’s okay to not be okay – does this person feel suicidal? If they answer yes, its best to get the emergency support by calling 999, stay with them and reassure them. Do not leave a person on their own.

• Keep your comments brief and simple so you do not get the person off track.

• Ask questions which show your interest and encourage the person to keep talking. For example, “What happened next?” or “What was that like?”

• Give verbal and non-verbal messages of caring and support. Facial expressions and body posture go a long way toward showing your interest. Do not hesitate to interject your own feelings as appropriate.

• Let people know that it is OK to cry. Some people are embarrassed if they cry in front of others. Handing over a box of tissues in a matter-of-fact way can help show that tears are normal and appropriate. It is also OK if you get a bit teary yourself.

Grounding Techniques can be really useful – here is a technique you can try:

After a trauma, it’s normal to experience flashbacks, anxiety, and other uncomfortable symptoms. Grounding techniques help control these symptoms by turning attention away from thoughts, memories, or worries, and refocusing on the present moment.

5-4-3-2-1 Technique

Using the 5-4-3-2-1 technique, you will purposefully take in the details of your surroundings using each of your senses.

Strive to notice small details that your mind would usually tune out, such as distant sounds, or the texture of an ordinary object.

What are 5 things you can see? Look for small details such as a pattern on the ceiling, the way light reflects off a surface, or an object you never noticed.

What are 4 things you can feel? Notice the sensation of clothing on your body, the sun on your skin, or the feeling of the chair you are sitting in. Pick up an object and examine its weight, texture, and other physical qualities.

What are 3 things you can hear? Pay special attention to the sounds your mind has tuned out, such as a ticking clock, distant traffic, or trees blowing in the wind.

What are 2 things you can smell? Try to notice smells in the air around you, like an air freshener or freshly mowed grass. You may also look around for something that has a scent, such as a flower or an unlit candle.

What is 1 thing you can taste? Carry gum, candy, or small snacks for this step. Pop one in your mouth and focus your attention closely on the flavours.

Deep Breathing

Learning to breathe is essential for our Health and Well-being and to regulate the oxygenated blood within our systems. Review our attachment for some amazing Breathing Techniques brought to you by T.E.A and Vicky at The school of Yoga below.

How stressed are you right now?

As part of Stress Awareness month, The Stress Management Society have put together a short quiz for you to check your current stress levels and some helpful personalised tips to support you – take the quiz here today - Individual Stress Test - The Stress Management Society

What has T.E.A Training Done in Stress Awareness Month 2021?

T.E.A Training values our workforce- striving to improve standards of care by providing High Quality Training and ensuring our Care workforce have the resources they need to do what they do best in an outstanding way! We look after you, so you can look after others!

We have collaborated with the amazing Vicky at The School of Yoga and designed a resource that has been developed in response to the latest Carers UK statistics and also by listening to the learners we have met, who, many suffer with back ailments and have experienced and or are experiencing high levels of stress and anxiety at work as a direct response to caring.

The aim of this short programme is to promote the Physical and Phycological wellness of staff, during and after work.

Our Caring for you – Your Health Matters programme has been put together to

1. Reduce anxiety and stress in and outside of the workplace

2. Reduce workplace back injuries by supporting spinal care and posture

3. Minimise workplace error rate by preparing the mindset ready for the day ahead

4. Bring value to front line workers so they can be the best at what they do so well.

In essence this programme teaches effective breathing techniques and movements that have been put together specifically for our care workforce.

We have kept the programme short, to encourage people to be able to utilise these techniques before they start their shift or workplace activities.

These techniques can be completed by anyone regardless of ability, in any space/environment, and in theory at any time.

Once you or a member of staff becomes familiar with the programme, it should take no longer than 4 minutes to fully complete. Many of my current learners often use the breathing techniques throughout the day and have commented on the effectiveness of them to reduce their stress levels and enable better re-focus.

Watch our Breathing and movement Techniques here

Find out more about the benefits of our 'Caring For You' programme below

I hope you have enjoyed some of our Tips and Initiatives brought to you in our latest blog.

If you would like any further information about the things discussed within this blog, or other training that is offered by T.E.A please do not hesitate to get in touch - we look forward to hearing from you and welcoming you soon.

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