Stress: Symptoms, causes and how to get NHS help in Leeds

April is Stress Awareness Month and official figures show the problem is on the rise across Britain.

By Richard Beecham
Monday, 25th April 2022, 4:45 am

Most of us feel stressed at times - some even find it a helpful motivator - but if it is affecting your life you may want to take steps to boost your wellbeing or get professional help.

What has happened to stress levels during the pandemic?

Official figures show that around one in 40 British workers had work-related stress, anxiety or depression in 2020/21. This accounted for half of all work-related illness, with people working in teaching and healthcare jobs reporting the highest rates.

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Stress affects us all at some point, but it is important to seek help when it all gets too much. Pic:Adobestock

The Health and Safety Executive estimates that there are 68,000 cases of work-related stress, anxiety and depression in Yorkshire and The Humber each year. The pandemic has seen the problem soar in the region - rates of work-related stress, anxiety and depression in the three years to March 2021 were 38% higher than in the previous three years.

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Are you suffering from stress?

Stress is a common reaction to emotional or mental pressure. When you feel anxious or under pressure, your body releases stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol.

This can help you to feel motivated and get things done, but it may also cause physical symptoms such as a faster heartbeat or sweating. Feeling stressed all the time can be a sign of an underlying problem.

Causes of stress can include pressure at work, family difficulties such as divorce, financial or health problems or significant life events such as moving house or having a baby. Sometimes there is no obvious cause.

If you want to find out whether you could be suffering from stress, the NHS has a mood self-assessment quiz.

Signs and symptoms of stress

According to the NHS, there are a variety of physical and mental symptoms - and it is not always easy to recognise that stress is the underlying cause.

Physical symptoms include:

headaches or dizziness

muscle tension or pain

stomach problems

chest pain or a faster heartbeat

sexual problems

Mental symptoms include:

difficulty concentrating

struggling to make decisions

feeling overwhelmed

constantly worrying

being forgetful

Stress can also cause changes in behaviour, such as:

being irritable and snappy

sleeping too much or too little

eating too much or too little

avoiding certain places or people

drinking or smoking more

Things you can do to alleviate stress

Mental health charities offer plenty of advice about how to manage stress.

For example, Mind suggests that people can:

spend time in nature

look after their physical health by getting enough sleep, eating well and taking exercise

develop their interests and hobbies

try to find time to relax, for example by taking a short break

Getting NHS help for stress

If you need more support, you can contact the NHS for free talking therapies like cognitive behavioural therapy.

People in England can refer themselves directly to an NHS programme called Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT), without needing to speak to a GP first.

Call 999 or go to A&E straight away if you or someone you know needs immediate help, or you have seriously harmed yourself, for example by taking a drug overdose. A mental health emergency should be taken as seriously as any other medical emergency.

Dr Gwyn Elias, GP and Clinical Lead for Mental Health for NHS Leeds Clinical Commissioning Group said “We know that the coronavirus pandemic and the impact of lockdown are impacting a lot of people. Many will be feeling worried, anxious or overwhelmed right now.

“It’s really important that we’re all aware of how we’re feeling and as well as family, friends and colleagues. Recognising the ‘red flags’ of stress can help us spot when someone may need support.”

“We all experience stress at different times and in different ways, but being under prolonged or intense pressure can affect our mental health. I’d urge anyone who is struggling to talk about how they’re feeling and to reach out for support if they need it.

“There’s lots of help available, including self-help resources, apps, online courses as well as support lines and specialist help. You’ll find details on the MindWell website –www.mindwell-leeds.org.uk. There’s also a free helpline for anyone struggling with their mental health. The number is 0800 183 0558 and it’s open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”