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Exploring the complex relationship between Mental Health and Stress

Everyone is unique so there is no one size fits all solution. However, we recognise that there are patterns that tell us pressure impacts performance. Even the strongest people hit their metaphorical wall during the pandemic. This wall may manifest differently, on a different timeline, on a different plain, but we all were impacted by the pandemic, one way or another, and some of us are still affected.

Becoming overwhelmed by stress is where these cracks start to show. It is where they begin to have an impact on our day-to-day life, and potentially become a problem.

Is stress a recognised mental health condition in itself? No - but it is closely linked in two ways:

1. Mental health conditions can cause stress – managing the condition and the associative factors, medication, and appointments

2. Stress can cause mental health problems

Our stress and mental health can become blended, and difficult to determine where either one stops, and the other begins.

When the pressure becomes too high our performance level rapidly drops. This impacts our ability to do tasks or our job effectively. This can display itself in all kinds of ways; lack of sleep, fatigue, difficulty in making decisions, and poor judgment. But it is important to remember, we all differ in how we reach our tipping point.

Recovery from the pandemic The word recovery indicates that the pandemic is over. But it’s not. We are learning to live with COVID. How can we possibly fully process something that is not yet complete? We all process things differently, so it’s a tricky one. Customisation is the key. Learning to respect, value, accommodate and embrace individual differences will help reduce stress, absenteeism, and presenteeism. This will also impact performance and productivity within the workforce. When we empower people to speak openly without fear or judgment and actively engage we encourage good mental health.

Low pressure elicits boredom, slightly heightened pressure can elicit levels of performance consistent with our comfort zone, increasing the heightened level of pressure to stretch ourselves – this is typically where we would see an optimal level of performance. Levels of pressure above this can put a strain on our performance and cracks in performance start to show. When the pressure on us is exacerbated to crisis levels, our performance falls dramatically. This is when we hit stress which can be a definite trigger for causing new mental health problems or exacerbating existing mental health problems.

We need to give ourselves time and space to reflect on where our potential triggers may lie. It is also important to create the time, space, and importantly, atmosphere to be able to share, effectively raise awareness and trust someone enough to collaborate, to co-create ways, to identify the behaviours that may act as warning signs, that signal others that you need to activate support channels.

When we are encouraged to proactively explore support mechanisms that can be put in place to lessen the likelihood of triggering strain, stress, or crisis. When we can create such a space, we begin to feel more comfortable opening the collaborative toolbox to find personalised solutions. This can include a mixture of preventative proactive steps, and ways of reducing stress, and it may evolve and change - but importantly, it is tailored to you.

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