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Today, I am told, is National Stress Awareness Day. I presume this is a day to raise awareness of the dangers and health risks associated with stress, rather than an excuse to run around screaming and tearing your hair out, making everyone aware that you are indeed stressed.

When it comes to work I seem to be able to handle stress pretty well, though for sure I have had my moments of sitting in front of my computer pulling at my hair and shouting obscenities. Most of the time though I am able to remove myself from the stresses of work. I have always viewed it as my employer’s responsibility to ensure I rarely get put into stressful situations so I tend to remain stress free by knowing that whatever stress I am suffering is probably not my fault. This is actually a very powerful tool and whilst it may not help in the actual moment (for example with a looming deadline), I find it’s important and helpful to be able to keep that emotional distance. I find that people can sometimes fall into the mindset that their employer is doing them a favour by giving them a job and that they therefore have to take everything that’s thrown at them. I have always been of the opinion that it is a mutual agreement: I am employed to do a job, and am paid to do it. For example, if it is consistently the case that my colleagues and I are unable to complete work to deadlines, then it is clear to me not that I need to work harder and longer hours unpaid, but that the company needs to either pay me more, or employ more people. Realising that you ‘owe’ your job nothing more than what the company owes you for doing it, I find helps deal with work stress immensely.

On the other hand, I have never been all that great at dealing with stress in my personal life. I’ve always had trouble with the little stresses of things overwhelming me, and that has unfortunately become more and more of a problem in my life over the past several months. So much so in fact that I’ve recently re-diagnosed myself with depression, which came as a bit of a surprise I must admit! This is probably a fairly odd way of putting it and by no means did I reach this conclusion alone… But I guess it highlights the importance of trying to remain aware of your mental health at all times. It’s important to give yourself time to reflect on things, and work on your mental well being. Of course this is always easier said than done, but I guess a good way to think of it is to reflect on how often you worry about how fit and healthy your body is, compared to how often you consider the same for your mind. I think most people would realise that they rarely think about their mental health at all, and the thing about the deterioration of mental health is that it’s much much much less easy to see, even within yourself (in fact this can be harder), when compared to physical health. Of course the two are also intricately connected and one can have an affect on the other, but I think people only tend to start thinking something is wrong when their body is involved, or as in my case, they are lucky enough to have people on hand to offer help.

I think if you’re a man, mental health problems can be particularly difficult to deal with as our culture has nurtured the ‘stiff upper lip’ to the point where scores of men are suffering in silence because society deems these things a weakness more often than a sickness. It’s important to remember therefore that this simply isn’t the case and thankfully there are charities and initiatives such as today (National Stress Awareness Day) that help to disseminate information and dispel the negative associations many have regarding mental illness.

I am currently taking steps to deal with my mental health problems, and the advice I would offer anyone who feels they might be suffering anything from stress to depression to anxiety is firstly to understand that there is absolutely nothing wrong with you and that these things are illnesses that can be treated and overcome. Second would be to say that there are people to speak to, and professionals whose job it is to help you as best they can. If you think you might have a problem, book an appointment with your doctor, or if you prefer there are charity and information websites and helplines such as Rethink (0300 5000 927), Depression Alliance, and of course the Samaritans (08457 90 90 90) as well as many more.

I realise I’ve hijacked the subject a little here, but it’s important to realise that stress is still a serious issue and can cause a great many problems. If you think you’re ‘stressed’, please think about whether it’s more than just a temporary thing, or a specific ‘work thing’ etc. It’s too easy to put these problems down to one thing after another without realising it’s become entrenched. Most of all though, don’t spend time blaming yourself, just do what you can to make yourself well.

I’m going to end there, but if you’ve read this and want to ask me any questions, do feel free. I’m fairly open about this stuff as a few of my previous posts have shown, so if I can ever be of any help I would consider it a privilege. That said try not to think of me as an expert as I obviously can’t give any professional or medical advice! I’ll do what I can though.

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