Sunday, February 04, 2007

Britain - the most stressed nation in Europe

This week The Times newspaper ran an article about a survery commissioned by the Samaritans, which confirmed that Britain was one of the most stressed nations in Europe. It showed that 20% of Britons felt 'their life was out of control'. Today's blog talks briefly about some of the basics when dealing with stress.

The following offers a set of general tools:
• Take time out from stress, this will prevent unhealthy obsessing.
• Get a good nights sleep.
• Never be afraid to ask for help or advice, the chances are someone else will have faced a similar task.
• Think what you would advise someone else in the situation; we are often good at solving other peoples problems, so why not use your own advice?
• Confide in someone and remember the old saying ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’.
• Stop beating your self up. Everyone makes mistakes.
• Avoid imagining that the problem is worse than it actually is.
• Divide tasks into chunks – take each source of stress in turn and think of three ways of increasing your control, even if this is to a very tiny extent.

The final point about gaining control of the stressful situation is perhaps highlighted by a famous psychology stress study, when participants were asked to work on a task that demanded a lot of concentration. The task was made even more difficult by adding a level of background distraction noise whilst trying to complete the task. This induced a stressed feeling in the volunteers. Then they were told that they could switch off the background noise if they wanted to, by pressing a button. Their stress levels immediately dropped simply knowing that they could push the button if they wanted to, even though they hardly ever did. This shows that stress may partly be due to the work demands made on you, but it's also due to the stress you put on yourself. When you gain a sense of control or even potential control over this, it can be a great stress antidote. Hence, taking even small steps to increase your control over a stressful task, can really help reduce the overall stress level.


Peter Smallbone said...

Do you think that people in the UK are more stressed because of a combination of pressures here (e.g. high house prices, high levels of credit), or do you think that there's something about the average Briton that causes them to feel more stressed anyway? Or is it a bit of both?

Perhaps this question isn't all that important, as people in the UK feel more stressed whatever the cause is.

Dr Michelle Tempest said...

Hi Peter - Many thanks for your comment. It may well have something to do with the fact that we live in a consumer society and have a fast pace of twenty-first century life. The very fact that you mention high house prices and credit, is perhaps indicative of the fact that these are the things expected in a consumer society. We have perhaps forgotten to appreciate the smaller things in life. In fact, studies do show that money does not bring happiness. Hope you had a good weekend. All the very best. Michelle

QUASAR9 said...

Hi Michelle, another excellent post
Like the general tools - and in the spirit of the article would love to hear your comments on my post re: the shortfalls in the nhs @ The Real Cambridge

Peter Smallbone said...

Thanks for the reply Michelle. It's true that money doesn't bring happiness, although it might make feeling miserable easier to live with! ;-)

Anyway, I guess I'm wondering whether there's something about the typical British demeanour, which is for example quite reserved, that leads to higher stress levels anyway, irrespective of the environment in which it finds itself. Or do you think that higher materialism, working hours, credit, house prices etc relative to other countries are the main cause?

Also I've recently blogged on some hospital reorganisations in my area, which also covers recruitment of staff from developing countries. I'd be interested to hear your views.


Dr Michelle Tempest said...

Hi Quasar9 and Pete, Thanks so much for your comments. I have since read your posts about the NHS and have left comments there. It's a massive topic, but I'm delighted that people are discussing the NHS. Many thanks. Michelle