Stress Awareness Month 2024: Distress and How to De-stress

It is Stress Awareness Month, learn about distress and how to destress. First emerged in April 1992 in response to a heightening crisis where chronic and severe stress was spreading on a societal scale. Established to encourage open conversations and discussions about how stress can affect us individually. As well as a collective society as well as helping to reduce the stigma surrounding stress.

Stress and its Causes: Internal and External Factors…

As exam and deadline season commences, stress levels will be at an all-time high amongst our student and staff community. Coursework, exams, and looming deadlines may be the main source of stress for much of our student community. However, for some, there may be other external stressors and factors such as family, relationships, work, and financial problems. Some relevant examples could also include ongoing conflict, job loss, unemployment, and much more.

Stress can also be caused by internal factors such as feelings of uncertainty, failure, and low self-esteem. Or dealing with chronic health issues and illness. Internal and external stressors often go hand in hand. And sometimes, the nature of the stressor may be even more unique or complex as well.

An acute level of stress can serve both a useful and essential evolutionary purpose in some circumstances. Experiencing high levels of stress for a long period can have a negative and sometimes even severe impact on an individual’s physical, emotional, and psychological health and well-being.

Recognising Symptoms and Signs of Stress…

Physically, stress can significantly deplete your immunity levels if you experience profound levels of it over a long-term period. This can make you more vulnerable to catching frequent colds, flu, and viruses. Also making you more susceptible to skin complaints, indigestion, high blood pressure and heart problems. Emotionally, stress can also leave you feeling more irritable, anxious, frustrated, and cynical. Cognitive issues such as indecision, forgetfulness and inattention can also arise. Individuals experiencing profound and severe levels of stress may also develop unhealthy behavioural habits such as sleeping too much or too little, becoming isolated and withdrawn, procrastination and an increased intake of alcohol, cigarettes, and caffeine. These often emerge as coping mechanisms for individuals looking to curb or distract themselves from the stress they are experiencing, but these habits often only end up exacerbating and worsening their stress and circumstances.

The #LittleByLittle Campaign…

The Stress Management Society reported this year that 79% of adults experience stress at least once within a month and that annually 74% have felt unable to cope with the stress they are experiencing or extremely overwhelmed. This year, they have launched the #LittleByLittle campaign which promotes the significance of making small and feasible changes within our daily routines and lives to effectively reduce the negative effects of stress. Stress often primarily emerges from feelings of powerlessness over one’s circumstances. Developing healthy and effective, manageable habits and making small positive changes may not completely erase the stress an individual is experiencing, but it can help them to feel more in control and develop a stronger sense of resilience and optimism in difficult times.

Some of the small habits the Stress Management Society recommend adapting to combat stress as part of their #LittleByLittle campaign are…

  • Connecting with others.
  • Making sleep a priority.
  • Movement and exercise.
  • Spending time outdoors and in nature.
  • Breathing techniques.
  • Practicing mindfulness.

It may not always seem feasible to incorporate these small actions into your daily routine, especially if your schedule is particularly hectic. Around exam and deadline season, this is likely the case as well! Nevertheless, it is worthwhile thinking about where you could slot in at least a few of these small but effective habits. For example, if it is a particularly sunny day, you could take a walk to your university campus or place of work instead of driving or using public transport. This effectively helps to incorporate some exercise and movement into your day as well. If this is not a feasible or realistic option, however, why not take the time to study out in the fresh air and sunshine when the opportunity arises, or even take your lunch break outside?

Destress at the library

The importance of eating for wellbeing, staying connected with others and taking regular breaks also cannot be over-emphasised as well. All three of our campus libraries have a wide range of facilities and resources available to aid with stress and well-being and support students in developing these effective habits, particularly during exam season. We currently have physical Exam Support Displays set up in each campus library with books displayed from both our research collection and wellbeing collection, as well as links and QR codes directing individuals to our useful webpages for study skills, exam support and our Libguide page. Each display also has bowls of free fruit available – do come along and help yourself!

You can also find more of the resources we have available in our wellbeing collection on our Libguide webpage through the following link: Wellbeing Collection – LibGuides at Edinburgh Napier University.

Alongside our wellbeing book stands, we also have relaxation spaces with couches, board games and pages for colouring. An opportunity to take some time away from their revision to relax and recharge.

Some of the books we have available to take out on loan or as an ebook from our Wellbeing Collection which promote and aid with developing effective habits to combat stress can be found below.

By Rachel Downie

Read about our article on beating exam stress.