Stress Awareness Month has been held every April since 1992 to raise awareness of the causes and cures for our modern stress epidemic. This years theme is ‘Community’ because lack of support can cause loneliness and isolation, which in turn lowers people’s wellbeing, impacts mental health and can lead to mental illness.
Social isolation is an important risk factor for both deteriorating mental health and suicide. As we emerge from the pandemic, it’s vital that the community support experienced by many people during this challenging time continues – people need support now more than ever as they adjust to a new way of living.
A community is much more than just a group of people. It’s about having a sense of belonging and connection to others and feel supported and accepted by them. Relationships are one of the most important aspects of our lives. People who are more socially connected to family, friends, or their community are happier, physically healthier and live longer, with fewer mental health problems than people who are less well connected. People in neighbourhoods with higher levels of social cohesion experience lower rates of mental health problems than those in neighbourhoods with lower cohesion, regardless of how deprived or affluent a neighbourhood is.
Conversely, a lack of community support can result in feelings of social isolation and loneliness. Feeling lonely has a negative impact on mental health, particularly when these feelings are longstanding, and research suggests that it is associated with an increased risk of depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, sleep problems and increased stress.
Socialising with others has multiple benefits for our mental health . Whether it’s a sport, hobby classes (visit Route2Wellbeing to find a new hobby or interest) or volunteering (visit Let’s Go Sandwell), activities like these all give meaning and purpose to our lives and make us more confident. Having the opportunity to laugh and chat with others in social situations serves to temporarily distract us from our worries by turning our focus outwards instead of inwards. And being able to talk through problems and share our worries with others decreases our stress levels. As the saying goes, a worry shared is a worry halved, and less worry equals less stress.
Volunteering may be especially good for reducing stress because, much like socialising, it turns our focus outwards. Moreover, helping others with their problems, can help us gain a more positive perspective on our own difficulties. Plus, there are the associated benefits of working together with other like-minded people to achieve a worthwhile goal. These factors all weigh heavily on the positive side of the mental health spectrum, and so increase our mental wellbeing while uniting in us in a shared sense of purpose.
For free resources, facts and more information visit The Stress Management Society