April is Stress Awareness Month, an initiative launched by the Stress Management Society in 1992 to increase awareness of the causes and cures of our modern stress epidemic. After 30 years in action, one might argue that we need this campaign now more than ever.

The theme for this year’s Stress Awareness Month is Community, highlighting how lack of support can cause loneliness and isolation which in turn lowers people’s wellbeing, impacts mental health and can lead to mental illness.

According to the Stress Management Society: “A community is much more than just a group of people. It’s about having a sense of belonging and connection to others and feeling 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.”

The last two years have been difficult for a lot of people; the pandemic had a hugely detrimental effect on our sense of community and cast a particularly harsh light on the work-life balancing act. And as a working parent, I can attest to this. The pressure that comes from the double responsibilities of work and home can often feel relentless.

But it’s not all bad. I am fortunate enough to work with a business that has supported me (and all other Hollis’ working parents) in allowing me to embrace flexible working and never making me feel guilty for prioritising my role as a parent. I also work with a great group of people; we truly are one team. We help each other, we support each other, and we work together to get the job done.

Another positive to emerge from this period has been learning to cope with stress in a healthy way. Where previously I was often guilty of putting my head down and barrelling through the stress, I’ve since discovered that is not actually the most efficient way to deal with it.

I read an article recently about the concept of ‘dyadic coping’. Essentially, it’s what happens when partners help each other to cope with stress by actively listening, jointly brainstorming solutions and helping each other through situations.  It’s a concept I believe should also extend to all personal and professional relationships. In a work setting we’re often hardwired to want to do things on our own; asking for help can make us feel uneasy because it requires surrendering control to someone else. But asking for help, and indeed offering to help, actually builds that sense of connection and community. Seeking help or talking out loud with a colleague, friend or family member is a sign of strength and not weakness.

Our recent Easter break has given me the opportunity to reflect on managing stress in a post-lockdown life. Through communication, ‘dyadic coping’ and community, I have found a way to balance both work and play, and personal and professional, to ensure stress does not take over… And if this stops working, I found the Easter eggs in the fridge this week to be an effective stress reducer too!

Michelle Condon

Director
Marketing and communications Management board

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