Mental Health Awareness Week - Wednesday

The focus of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is stress, and that is the topic for today’s content. We’re going to talk about what it is, how to identify it, and how we can all try to reduce it in our daily lives.

Stress is a feeling we all experience. It can come from different parts of your day to day life such as an increased workload, a period of change, an argument you might have had and even sport. You may find that it has a build-up effect, with each problem stacking on top of another.

During these situations you may feel threatened or upset and your body will try to react. This can cause a number of physical symptoms, change the way you behave, and lead you to experience more intense emotions. Things that didn’t bother you before can now become a much bigger deal, and be harder to manage.

Stress affects us in a number of ways, both physically and emotionally and in varying intensities. Everybody is different, but here are some common signs of stress:

  • feelings of constant worry or anxiety
  • feelings of being overwhelmed
  • difficulty concentrating
  • mood swings or changes in your mood
  • irritability or having a short temper
  • difficulty relaxing
  • depression
  • low self-esteem
  • changes in your sleeping habits

It’s important to know that not all stress is bad and that stress is an important part of some areas of life, sport being one of them. Having the ball in your hands for the final possession of a tight game, or needing to hit a clutch free throw are definitely stressful situations, but it is important that the stress can pass and not remain once that situation has ended.

So now we know more about stress, what can cause it and what it can do to us, how can deal with it? Firstly, let’s talk about what you can do if you feel stressed. There are a number of different things you can try to do to help yourself if you’re feeling stressed out.

  • Realise when stress is causing you a problem. It might be difficult to make the connection between how you feel and stress. Look out for the signs listed above and see if they might be caused by stress. Knowing what is causing a problem is a good start for getting back on the right track.
  • Try to find out what is causing the stress. Is there a main cause? Some stressors might have an easy solution if you think them through. Some might get better over time, and for some there may be nothing you can do. Try to release the worry with the second and third group, though this isn’t always as easy as that!
  • Take a step back from time to time and look at your lifestyle. Are you doing too much? Are there things you could be doing differently, or could be handled by someone else? Are you enjoying the things you do? Sometimes, taking a step back and looking differently at your life can help to reduce your stress levels significantly!

Now we’ve talked about reducing stress, how can we manage it before it gets to that level? There are always steps you can try to take to protect yourself from unwanted stress, but remember it can never totally be removed from your life! Here are seven great steps from the Mental Health Foundation about how athletes can help their stress levels:

  1. Eat healthily – Active people should try to take note of this one anyway but making sure you eat well can always help your mood. A good diet can provide you with essential vitamins and nutrients for your brain, and staying hydrated is a big deal to.
  2. Be aware of smoking and drinking – Both smoking and drinking are linked to decreased wellbeing and although they may make you feel less tense initially, smoking and drinking will make problems worse in the future.
  3. Exercise – This one is a no brainer! We talked yesterday about how fantastic sport is to our mental health, and basketball can always be a great way to get any stress out.
  4. Relax – Always take time to relax, no matter what you’re doing. It’s ok to prioritise self-care and taking a break, even from important things, is good for your mental health. If you’re happy and relaxed, you’ll be in a much better place to deal with stress when it does come along.
  5. Be Mindful – Paying attention to our own thoughts and feelings is important. If you can use your own mind to increase your ability to manage difficult situations, they’ll be much easier to get past when they happen. For more on Mindfulness, click here.
  6. Get restful sleep – Being stressed often keeps us from sleeping well, but sleep is a massive factor in good mental health. It is a key time for growth and development amongst children and teenagers, and it’s important to get good quality sleep as well as a decent amount. For more on sleeping well, click here.
  7. Be your own friend – Sport can often make us hard on ourselves as we strive to be the best we can be. But learn to keep things in perspective and don’t beat yourself up. If your inner criticism is constant and not true, you’re going to be building your stress levels pretty quickly. Take a few minutes each day to appreciate yourself and what you’re doing.

If you want to find out more about stress, how it can affect your life and what you can do, click on the button below