Week commencing 14th May was Mental Health Awareness Week and as such, The Hub of Wishes our Newton Aycliffe mental health charity is focusing on STRESS. Many people are suffering from some form of stress in their lives, often unaware that their physical symptoms stem from stress. Some stress is necessary and often constructive at a level where it improves your performance, however prolonged stress becomes destructive.

Definition of stress: Stress is difficult to define because it means different things to different people. Stress is the imbalance between the everyday demands of life and the ability to cope. Stress can mimic signs of physical illness – failure to relax and break the cycle can lead to more severe symptoms

• Signs of stress are: feelings of suffocating pressure, panic attacks, loss of memory at crucial moments, irritability, tiredness, sleep and digestive problems.

• Physical signs of stress are: cardiovascular problems, hypertension, migraines, stomach ulcers, PMS

• Further signs to watch for: exhaustion, insomnia, dizziness, cramps, anger, unable to cope with simple decisions

Counteracting the effects of stress:

• Relaxation: relaxation calms the mind and body, it may not come naturally to some people but with time and practice it will be of benefit. Some relaxation techniques include breathing exercises, guided visualisation, meditation, listening to online relaxation videos or CDs.

• Exercise: exercise releases the body’s feel good hormones and actually increases energy levels. Even moderate exercise is of benefit. Walking, swimming, biking, some form of dance, going to the gym – all are beneficial.

• Balanced diet: studies have shown there is a connection between mental health and nutrition i.e. blood sugar imbalance, food allergies, and histamine levels can all affect the mind/body and cause some of the symptoms listed above. Often when we are stressed we eat and drink the very things which negatively affect our nutrition, (i.e. alcohol, fast food, chocolate).

• Talking about our problems: Being able to express our feelings to family, friends, or a counsellor will all help alleviate stress. Having a good support network is important to offload our feelings; however there are times when professional counselling may be required. To access help for ourselves in this way is about respecting and caring for ourselves. Very often people are nervous about speaking face to face to anyone about their problems and ringing a helpline may be a first step.

The Hub of Wishes based at Silverdale House promotes good mental health, supports, encourages and provides a social outlet for those who may be suffering emotional distress, difficult times or have mental health issues. Our service is confidential.

Various activities at the centre promote wellbeing and relieve stress including health walks, exercise classes, arts and crafts, learning new skills via training by professionals or supervised by staff; our singing group, film shows and regular outings and day trips. We are open from 10.00 am to 4.00pm Monday – Friday.

If you would like to know more or are interested in becoming a volunteer or member, please contact Vicki Lawrence or Joanne Howe on 01325 300121. Email : thehubofwishes@gmail.com) Check us out on www.thehubofwishes.co.uk, facebook and YouTube.