How we help students and staff manage stress – stress awareness month 2023

How we help students and staff manage stress – Stress Awareness Month 2023

Stress Awareness Month falls every April and is an opportunity to reflect on the impact that stress can have on our daily lives. Here at the School, stress can affect both students and staff and it’s crucial that we can talk openly about it.

Our Healthy Dancer Programme empowers our students to commit to self-care and have honest discussions about their well-being. We strive to create a safe environment where students and staff feel supported to express their worries and emotions, with support and resources available year-round from our expert healthcare team. 1-2-1 counselling is accessible to all our students and they are encouraged to self-refer to one of our counsellors if they feel they need to. Additionally, concerns can be anonymously reported through an app.

We aim to maintain an equally positive environment for all staff at the School. Every staff member has access to an independent, confidential employee assistance programme, and we have a staff Well-being Committee which meets every half-term to discuss the School’s current well-being provision and new initiatives. Each team at the School has a Well-being Committee representative to ensure that staff across all areas can give their input.

We spoke with our School Counsellor Lucy Bailie who offered some fantastic insights on how we can all effectively deal with stress.  

What is stress?

Stress is a natural reaction to difficult situations in life, such as work, family, relationships and money problems. Stress isn’t always negative – it can make us more alert and helps us perform better in certain situations when it’s short-lived. However, excessive or prolonged stress can lead to mental and physical health problems.

During situations that make you feel threatened or upset, your body creates a stress response. People react differently but stress can cause a variety of physical symptoms, change the way you behave, and lead you to experience more intense emotions.

Stress hormones can cause headaches, muscle tension, pain, nausea and dizziness. You may also breathe more quickly, have palpitations or suffer from sleeping problems or changes in appetite.

When people are stressed they may have lots of different feelings, including anxiety, irritability or low self-esteem, which can lead to becoming withdrawn, indecisive or tearful. You may have periods of constant worry, racing thoughts, or repeatedly going over the same things in your head.

How can you help yourself with stress?

Realise when stress becomes a problem, identify the causes and review your lifestyle. You can also help protect yourself from stress in a number of ways:

  • Eating healthily will reduce the risks of diet-related diseases plus there is a growing amount of evidence showing how food affects our mood
  • Be aware of your smoking and drinking
  • Physical exercise can be very effective in relieving stress. Even going out to get some fresh air and doing some light physical exercise, such as walking to the shops, can help
  • Take time out. Take time to relax. Striking a balance between responsibility to others and responsibility to yourself is important in reducing stress levels
  • Mindfulness meditation has been shown to reduce the effects of stress, anxiety and other related problems such as insomnia, poor concentration and low moods. You could try an app like Headspace or Be Mindful
  • Get restful sleep. Sleeping problems are common when you’re suffering from stress
  • Be kind to yourself. Try to keep things in perspective. After all, we all have bad days.

When should you seek professional help?

It’s okay to ask for professional help if you feel that you are struggling to manage on your own. The first person to approach is your GP who should be able to give you advice about treatment and may refer you to another local professional. Other support services to consider:

  • Citizens Advice – provides free, independent and confidential advice for a range of problems as well as providing information on your rights and responsibilities.
  • Samaritans – offer emotional support 24 hours a day – in full confidence.
  • Telus Health formerly LifeWorks – there is a Stress Lite programme you can follow.