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The Stress of Being Wonder Woman

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There is a concept that women can have it all and this may be true in some cases, but either way women are increasingly putting themselves under pressure trying to juggle everything to achieve their goals, and it's clearly taking its toll. PruHealth's research indicates it is women's personal lives which cause the most stress, and then our work - opposite to men.

Women are feeling the strain of the current climate much more so than men, as the effects of the recession and pressures in daily life and at work take their toll on stress levels. Over a fifth (22%) of women constantly or regularly feeling under a great deal of stress compared to 15% of men, and almost half (48%) feel this has increased since last year.

But the good news is that women are willing to talk about it, which is the first step in alleviating it. Mental health remains a taboo subject and this is the biggest barrier in addressing it. Early intervention and putting the right coping mechanisms in place are very important to nip symptoms in the bud, which is why awareness is critical.

Today, on National Stress Awareness Day, if you are feeling the pressure, instead of ignoring it perhaps take a moment to think about how you can de-clutter your day of all the things that are causing you stress and take some time for yourself.

Here are some simple tips to help you in the right direction, covering psychological, physiological and behavioural measures.

• Make friends with yourself: give yourself the same treatment and advice you would give a friend in the same situation. Turn your internal critical voice around by focusing on your positive aspects. Keep the situation in perspective and avoid imagining extreme outcomes.
• Chill out: do something that relaxes you such as meditating, having a warm bath, practicing positive relaxation imagery, listening to music, getting enough sleep or even just breathing properly and deeply and watching your posture.
• Just say no!: be assertive and protect your own legitimate rights while respecting those of others. Avoid saying 'yes' from a fear of not being liked or attempting to live up to unrealistic expectations and learn how to communicate in a relaxed and honest manner to avoid taking on other people's responsibilities. From a physical perspective there are several things you can do which really make a difference to your mental wellbeing. Exercise can improve your mental health, self-esteem and self-image - go for a walk, practice yoga, dance, run, go to the gym etc.
• Eat yourself well: people who feel unhealthy are less able to cope with stress and some foods and drinks such as a high caffeine intake can increase stress.
• Get in touch: soothe away your stress with a massage, as your muscles carry tension and by releasing it you can feel better physically, mentally and emotionally.
• Time management: manage your time effectively to reduce stress at home and in the workplace and free up more time to relax.
• Social connection: reach out and ensure you have social support networks in place - taking to supportive friends or colleagues can help put events into perspective and may even help you laugh which is a great stress reliever!
• Take action: deal with stress constructively - cognitive behavioural therapy or counselling has been proven to be very effective.

At PruHealth we know that the majority of people with low mood and stress don't seek help from health practitioners, which is why PruHealth has developed the Vitality mental wellbeing suite of tools for its members. The results of four online assessments are combined to give a complete overview of each individual's emotional health and mental wellbeing.

Free access support is then provided through the 'Living Life' online life skills course, developed by Dr Chris Williams, Professor of Psychiatry and Honorary Consultant Psychiatrist at the University of Glasgow, which uses the clinically proven cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) approach and allows people to dip into and address topics they want to work on, such as how to boost motivation and fix problems or how to tackle irritability and destructive negative thinking. By using the CBT approach we have developed some practical things to do that can make a real difference.

For more information please visit www.pruhealth.co.uk

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