Free Classes Launched To Combat Stress

As Stress Awareness Week gets underway, the Public Health Agency (PHA) is running a series of workshops and control classes for those feeling under pressure.

Stress is the feeling of being unable to cope as a result of too much mental or emotional pressure, with the physical signs including problems sleeping, sweating, loss of appetite and difficulty concentrating.

Funded by the PHA, the classes delivered by the Health and Social Care Trusts will focus on identifying the signs of stress and learning coping mechanisms.

Health officials are hoping to raise awareness of common symptoms in the meantime, with members of the public urged to consider if they often feel anxious and irritable, experience racing thoughts and worry or constantly mull over things in their head.

Fiona Teague, the PHA's Head of Health Improvement for the Western area said: "Many of life's demands can cause stress, these may include work, relationships or money worries. When you feel stressed, it can get in the way of working through these difficulties and can even affect everything you do.

"Sometimes when stress is severe or prolonged, it can lead to burnout, with extreme emotional and physical exhaustion. People have different ways of reacting to stress."
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You may notice that you lose your temper more easily, drink more or act unreasonably. You may also experience headaches, muscle tension or pain, or dizziness. Stress causes a surge of hormones in your body. These stress hormones are released to enable you to deal with pressures or threats – the so-called 'fight or flight' response. Stress control classes are a way of helping to manage stress.

Held once a week over six weeks, they will teach skills and techniques for managing stress. Topics covered include an overview of what stress is, controlling your body, controlling your thoughts, controlling your actions, managing panicky feelings, getting a good night's sleep and planning for the future. Stress control is a class, not 'group therapy' – you do not have to talk about personal difficulties in front of others.

Róisín Laverty, Cognitive Behavioural Therapist and Co-ordinator of Stress Control Classes in the Western Trust area said: "As the co-ordinator for stress control classes in the Western Trust area, one of the observations I would make is how the classes give participants a sense that they are not alone in their experience of stress. They learn how stress can affect their physical health as well as their mental health and wellbeing.

"Participants also develop a set of skills whereby they can manage their own stress and help prevent stress impacting on them in the future. What has stood out for me is the number of people who have approached me at the end of the classes and said that they thought they were suffering from a physical condition such as insomnia, a cardiac condition or fatigue, when actually their symptoms were a manifestation of their stress. They felt relieved that they had come to the classes to learn about stress and how to cope with it."

Click here for details of the free classes.


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