International Stress Awareness Week: Insights from a public member

  Stress management photo


To mark International Stress Awareness Week (2– 6 November), a member of the Patient and Public Involvement and Engagement (PPIE) team at King's Clinical Research Facility (CRF), shares her insights on stress and how individuals can manage or alleviate stress in the workplace and daily life.


Stress is a significant part of our lives that often goes unnoticed. However, it can have positive and negative effects on our wellbeing. Good stress can motivate and provide the drive to tackle challenging situations, while bad stress can lead to physical and mental health issues if it persists. Bad stress can cause problems such as back pain, neck pain, headaches, insomnia, anxiety, depression, self-harm, attempted suicide, and even coronary heart disease. Stress can come from many sources, such as our home environment, relationships, job or career, and demands made by others. Poor time management, unhealthy lifestyle and diet, ‘toxic relationships’, and lack of exercise can also contribute to stress. Identifying and managing stressors is essential to maintain a healthy and balanced life.


Who might be affected the most?

Different people are affected by stress in different ways, and our personality also plays a role in how we handle stress. Some individuals thrive under highly stressful situations and purposely seek them out. This could be due to their body secreting more of the stress hormone nor-adrenaline, leading to feelings of confidence and elation. The second personality trait that makes people vulnerable to stress damage is being an overachiever or perfectionist who never gives in to illness or fatigue. Overachievers often find it challenging to refuse excessive demands placed on them or to say no. Finally, people diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are also at risk of suffering from stress.


Stress at work

It is common to feel overwhelmed by tight deadlines and high expectations from your boss or organisation. Managing your time or meeting the job's demands can be challenging. You may feel bored with needing more to do or overburdened with menial tasks that do not match your skills, abilities, or talents. You may feel dissatisfied with your job and need help to get along with your colleagues or boss. 

If you recently received a promotion, you may feel uncertain or lack self-confidence, fearing failure. You may not receive the necessary training or feel confident to request it. Developing assertiveness and communication skills can significantly help in such situations. It is essential to talk about your concerns with someone close to you, seek advice, and avoid suffering in silence. Stressful work environments can negatively affect our morale, health, and productivity. Taking regular breaks, stepping away from your desk, breathing some fresh air, and taking a short walk during lunch breaks are crucial. You should take breaks as often as you need to rejuvenate your brain, even if it's only for a few minutes. Your thoughts will become clearer, and your creativity and productivity will improve.


What can be done to alleviate stress?

As we have seen taking ‘time out’ is important but also having regular breaks to unwind, time to rest, and sleep makes a big difference to your stress levels. You can also try some of the following (I myself ensure I incorporate some of them in my daily routine to help manage my stress levels):

  • Enough, good quality sleep.
  • A healthy and balanced diet full of wholesome, fresh, and unprocessed food.
  • Chamomile or herbal teas.
  • Yoga and Pilates.
  • Take fresh air, e.g. a walk in nature, maybe in wooded areas or near water. But also, just opening your windows for a few minutes can make a difference to your well-being.
  • A hot bath or long shower.
  • Listen to music.
  • Burn scented candles or using a diffuser/vaporiser.
  • Relaxation (maybe try autogenic training or AT, a quick and easy form of relaxation), meditation, mindfulness, visualisation (there are many apps or websites to choose from for help).
  • Breathing control (try ‘alternative nostril breathing’) or try to slow down your breathing as slowly as you can. Maybe inhale to the count of 10 and exhale to the count of 10 to immediately calm down.
  • Alternative therapies such as reflexology, aromatherapy (as a massage or as oil to put in a bath or burn), massage (or self-massage) and acupressure.
  • Laugh, socialise with others, have a cuppa and a chat, phone a loved one, share our worries and problems.
  • Put your worries in writing, make to-do lists (although that might be stressful for some people).
  • Stroke a pet.
  • Be positive; acknowledge things you are grateful for and concentrate on the good side of life.
  • Learn to manage your time.
  • Create a peaceful space; avoid clutter and have plants and/or flowers in your home/office environment, avoid noise and listen to relaxing sounds (many apps can help).

To conclude, I suggest you try some of these techniques and see what works best for you and work out what makes you happy and schedule some time in your diary to do some of it every day.

Lastly, try not to ruminate or worry too much; we often worry about things in the past, which can’t be changed, or things in the future, most of which are actually not that terrible or will never happen. Stay in the present and enjoy your life!   


To learn more about PPIE at King’s CRF, please visit: For patients and public (

Tags: NIHR Wellcome King's Clinical Research Facility -

By NIHR Wellcome King's Clinical Research Facility at 1 Nov 2023, 09:42 AM

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