The 4th November marks National Stress Awareness Day, part of International Stress Awareness Week.
But what is stress?
Stress in itself isn’t necessarily negative – it is our body’s normal biological reaction to a potentially dangerous situation and triggers our ‘fight or flight’ reactions. But when our bodies are in permanent stress mode this can lead to physical and mental health issues.
This time of year can be difficult for many. The weather changes. The clocks go back, and we have fewer daylight hours. Many of us will start and leave work in the dark. The run up to Christmas can add financial strains. And this year, on top of all of that, we’re living and working in our ‘new normal’, and we’re facing a month of national lockdown. Our routines have changed. We live and work from home. Some of us are juggling work and homeschooling. Time with loved ones is precious and popping out to the shops or going for a swim isn’t as easy as it once was.
It’s no surprise we’re feeling overwhelmed. This year, more than ever, we need to be conscious of actively looking after our mental health.
Assess and Address Stress, with Mindfulness
National Stress Awareness Day is a great opportunity to take some time out to assess and address your stress. Are you feeling under pressure? Do you suffer with anxiety? And have you made an effort to look after yourself, as well as others? Self-care is very important and if you don’t have access to support groups, you need to be kind to yourself through this difficult time.
In the past few years, mindfulness has dominated the headlines. It is defined as “a state of mind achieved by focusing on one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations.”
In short, it’s taking time out, to be in the present moment, without worrying about the past or the future. It’s important to take the time to stop and be aware of your own thoughts and feelings. This has proved to be beneficial for people’s mental health, often reducing the risk of panic attacks, anxiety or depression.
There are many ways to practice mindfulness, and today we’d like to focus on the benefits of arts, crafts and creativity on your mental wellbeing.
To benefit from art as a stress relief, you don’t have to be Monet, Van Gough or Picasso! This is not about talent. Studies show that by simply engaging in art as therapy it reduces stress-related hormones in your body.
According to research carried out by the BBC (The Great British Creativity Test), being creative can make you happier. They surveyed almost 50,000 people and over three quarters of respondents said creativity helped them to block out stress and anxiety. A quarter of those named arts and craft practices as their preferred activity.
The study found that there are three main ways in which we use creativity to control negative emotions:
A ‘distraction tool’ to keep stress and anxiety at bay
A ‘self-development tool’ to build up self-esteem
A ‘contemplation tool’ to reflect and consider problems and emotions.
The report showed that even one session of doing something creative (arts and crafts, playing an instrument, jewellery-making, for example) can lead to an improved state of mind. Of course, live activities are more effective, but at the moment, online and virtual groups can be a lifeline for some.
And it’s not just creating that can relax the mind. Viewing art can also have a positive impact on your mental health. We’re very lucky in Southampton to have a fantastic art gallery: Southampton City Art Gallery. Of course, during lockdown the gallery won’t be accessible, but why not join them for a virtual tour of the main hall and exhibitions? You can also attend online talks and Ali’s Online Art Club. Keep an eye on latest updates and virtual events here.
The next few weeks will undoubtedly be challenging. It will be imperative to keep our mental health in check. It’s also important to realise if we’re struggling and know where to turn for help. Although we’re facing a month of lockdown, there is support available in Southampton.
You can call Solent Mind on 023 8017 9049, Mon - Fri 8am - 9am & 5pm - 8pm, Sat & Sun 9am - 5pm
The Samaritans are there for you 24/7 on 116 123
Text SHOUT to 85258 anytime day or night
All these helplines are completely free of charge, and confidential.
For more information go to: