You've probably heard the phrases Stress and Burnout. You may even have suffered these yourself or know someone who has.
I suffered with Stress and Anxiety for a long time. This was in part due to a difficult childhood which did not prepare me adequately for being a grown-up in the real world, followed by an abusive relationship in my 20's which left me with very low self-esteem and self-worth. It took a long time for me to heal, including re-training in NLP, hypnotherapy and life coaching coupled with a lot of forgiveness work.
What are the statistics on stress? In the largest known study of stress levels in the UK, undertaken in 2018 by YouGov, almost three quarters of adults (74%) have felt so stressed in the last year they have been overwhelmed or not able to cope.
Let's just go over that statistic again....3/4 of adults in the UK have felt so stressed in the last 12 months they have not been able to cope.
51% of those adults who felt stressed reported also feeling depressed, and 61% reported feeling anxious.
In conjunction with these statistics on the state of our mental health, over 70.9 MILLION prescriptions were issued for anti-depressants in England in 2018. Just in England. That figure does not include Scotland, Wales or NI. That is almost double the 36 million prescribed just 10 years ago in 2008.
GP's are paid by the Pharma's to prescribe drugs - can't sleep? Here, have a sleeping tablet. Feeling down? Here, have an anti-depressant. Tyoe 2 Diabetes? Here, have a statin to prevent heart attacks. But rarely do GP's consider what effects these drugs have in conjunction with one another.
Just 2 weeks ago, the big pharmaceutical companies revealed that they had done very little research into the side-effects of coming off anti-depressants. In certain demographics the side-effects are horrendous and in the most serious cases have resulted in suicide.
The statistics show that millions of people around the UK are suffering high-levels of stress, which is damaging our health, relationships and lives in general. Stress is one of the biggest health issues of the 21st Century and yet is still not taken as seriously as physical health.
Stress is a significant factor in mental health problems including anxiety and depression. But more importantly it is also linked to physical health problems like heart disease, problems with our immune system, insomnia and digestive problems. All of these physical problems cause unnecessary hospital stays, medical interventions and even premature death.
As a society we must change our attitudes to mental health and also ensure that schools, further education providers and employers treat stress and mental health problems as equally as they do physical safety.
The sad fact is that Stress and Burnout is far too common and not being given the financial backing it so desperately needs. Mental Health provision on the NHS is sporadic, patchy and subject to a postcode lottery. CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) are dependent on competency of the Foundation/Trust you are part of. It is not a joined-up system and parents have complained that there is no consistency in support for their child and medication is used more frequently than therapy.
What do most people do if they feel under stress? The 2018 report asked this question, and the results are:
- 46% reported that they ate too much or ate unhealthily due to stress.
- 29% reported that they started drinking or increased their drinking, and
- 16% reported that they started smoking or increased their smoking.
As humans we are hard-wired to move towards pleasure and away from pain. People see food, booze and smoking as pleasure in an otherwise painful world. The sad fact is that none of these behaviours resolve the real causes of stress, in fact in the case of alcohol - they actually exacerbate it as alcohol is a depressant itself.
So what can we do?
We need to take responsibility for our own health. GPs have complained that not enough emphasis is being placed on lifestyle intervention like using nutrition and food as medicine, exercise as a way to beat mental illness and low carb diets to reverse Type 2 diabetes in a bid to tackle some of the greatest challenges facing the NHS.
You don't need a GP to begin to take responsibility for your own body and mind.
There are 5 simple ways you can reduce stress and increase happiness in your life:
- Eat lean and clean. Ditch the processed food and refined carbs - sugar and starchy foods such as bread, pasta, rice and potatoes. Sugar causes spikes in your blood-sugar which can result in mood swings, weight gain and Type-2 diabetes. Reduce your alcohol intake and quit the fags.
- Exercise! Easier said than done I know, but exercise releases endorphins which are the 'happy hormone'. You can start by simply going for a walk at lunchtime, taking the stairs instead of the lift, or getting off the bus/tube one stop earlier and walking to the office. You dont need an expensive gym membership. You just need to start moving your body more. Baby steps lead to big change.
- Sleep! How many of you have TV's/Ipads/Phones in your bedroom? Your bedroom is for sleep and sex only. Remove all electronic devices (get an old-fashioned alarm clock) and if you haven't already get blackout curtains. Only go to bed when you are tired and have a good bedtime routine - including no screen time for an hour before bed.
- Find your Tribe! Humans are hardwired to find connection and avoid rejection. It goes back to our cave-man days when if you were rejected by your tribe that would pretty much mean certain death. Get out there and find like-minded souls. Enjoy singing? Join a choir. Like walking? Go rambling with a group. Bookworm? Join a book club. Find other people who enjoy similar activities to you and you will have your tribe and your 'connection'.
- Gratitude! This is life-changing. Honestly. If you have been feeling stressed, it's easy to think that life is working against us, we are the victim in our lives. The reality is every day you wake up is a blessing!! Every single day when you wake, and every evening before you go to sleep, write down 3 things you are grateful for. They don't have to be earth-shatteringly huge things, they can be as simple as clean sheets on the bed or the minty-fresh taste of toothpaste. The point is you are re-wiring your brain to look at the positives in your life.
And if you are still struggling with stress and burnout then I have a 4 week Freedom from Anxiety Programme which works to remove the root causes of your stress and anxiety to enable you to move forward in your life and enable you to create the life you deserve.
Amanda is the founder of Amanda Coles Hypnotherapy & Coaching. She is an NLP Hypnotherapist, Meridian Practitioner and Life Coach. Member of the General Hypnotherapy Register, the Central Register of Stop Smoking Therapists and a member of the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council. She has a clinic in Milton Keynes, Bucks and sees clients both face to face and worldwide online.