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Stress is the focus of a series of events being held to mark Mental Health Awareness Week, which runs from May 14 to 20.

Alex Burrage is Clinical Lead for ²gether’s Let’s Talk service, which supports people experiencing mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression and stress. She said: “People experience pressure in different ways.  Major events or life’s ups and downs can cause stress and sometimes feelings can be overwhelming and difficult to manage.

“Changes people find stressful can include pregnancy and having a new baby (the perinatal period), sitting exams, work-related issues, managing health conditions, moving house and financial hardship.

“A certain amount of stress is to be expected, but too much stress can increase our risk of developing anxiety, depression and other mental health problems.

“We want to spread the message that it’s absolutely okay to talk and ask for help.  Services like ours might be able to help you.  There are also things we can all do to combat stress and prevent it from negatively impacting on our daily lives.”

Tips that may help you overcome stress include:

  • Identify what is causing your stress. If you can find out what is causing it, you may be able to accept it for what it is, avoid it, remove it or change your response to it.
  • Talk to someone about what is causing your stress – a problem shared is often a problem halved.
  • Take time every day to relax. Do what you enjoy for at least 20 minutes every day.
  • Join a club or take up a hobby – this may help you to relax and to take your mind away from what is causing you stress.
  • Eat well. Avoid food which will make your stress worse such as too much caffeine, alcohol, sugar, fat or processed foods.
  • Sleep well. Adults should have at least six hours of sleep and ideally seven.
  • Be kind to yourself!  Don’t beat yourself up for not being perfect – speak to yourself as if you were your best friend.
  • Spend time outside in nature. Breathe in slowly and exhale slowly five times – notice your surroundings.
  • Have a go at Mindfulness.
  • If things are getting too much, ring Let’s Talk on 0800 073 2200 or visit talkghc.nhs.uk.

Karen, from Gloucestershire, values the help she received from Let’s Talk.  She said: “Let’s Talk definitely feels like a safe environment to discuss worries and troubles, and I don’t feel judged. I have already recommended it to friends who have mentioned they need help.

“I’d say to people dealing with stress, learn what to worry about. If a worry pops into your head, then think ‘Can I do anything about this?’ If the answer is yes, then make a plan to do that thing. If it isn’t something you can do anything about then try not to worry about it.”

Young people who are sitting exams may find our tips for good mental health and wellbeing useful on our dedicated website for children and young people.

²gether NHS Foundation Trust is working with a range of partners to support Mental Health Awareness Week in Gloucestershire and Herefordshire. The following events are taking place to raise awareness and highlight locally available support.

  • Tuesday 15 May – the Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) information bus will be in Gloucester from 9.30am until 3.30pm with Swindon and Gloucestershire Mind.
  • Tuesday 15 May – coffee morning at the Main Place, Coleford from 11am to 2pm for users of drop in services for people with a learning disability.
  • Tuesday 15 May – 5 Steps to Wellbeing Workshop from 10.30am to 11.30am at Gloucester Cathedral, booking required Jeffrey@gloucestercathedral.org.uk.
  • Wednesday 16 May – coffee morning at Tewkesbury Library from 11am to 2pm for users of drop in services for people with a learning disability.
  • Wednesday 16 May – ²gether stand in the foyer of Asda, Hereford from 10am to 3pm.
  • Wednesday 16 May – mindfulness with photography taster workshop for public and voluntary sector staff from 10am to 12pm at the Museum in the Park, contact ruth@look-again.org.
  • Thursday 17 May – the CCG information bus will be in Stratford Park from 9.30am to 3.30pm contact ayre@nhs.net
  • Thursday 17 May to Sunday 20 May – Independence Trust Museum in the Park Art Exhibition, Stroud. Art will be on sale from 11am on Friday 18 May until late.
  • Let’s Talk information will be showcased at the FestivALL launch event on 17 May at Gloucester Cathedral from 4pm to 7.30pm.

More information about Mental Health Awareness Week is available from the Mental Health Foundation website here.  Mental Health First Aid England (MHFA) is also encouraging people to support an ‘address your stress’ initiative.

Find out more about stress here.