Stress control classes available across Northern Ireland

Thursday, 2 November 2017 – Health and Social Wellbeing Improvement
Stress control classes available across Northern Ireland

Stress doesn’t just make you feel bad – it can also be bad for your health.

The good news is there are measures you can take to deal with it.

The Public Health Agency (PHA) is encouraging those experiencing stress to participate in stress control classes which it is funding and are being delivered by Health and Social Care Trusts across Northern Ireland.

Stress is the feeling of being under too much mental or emotional pressure, and pressure turns into stress when you feel unable to cope.

“Many of life’s demands can cause stress, particularly work, relationships and money worries. When you feel stressed, it can get in the way of sorting out these demands, or can even affect everything you do,” said Séamus Mullen, the PHA’s Head of Health and Social Wellbeing Improvement in the Belfast and South Eastern Area.

“Sometimes when stress is severe or prolonged, it can lead to burnout with extreme emotional and physical exhaustion. People do have different ways of reacting to stress, so a situation that feels stressful to one person may be motivating to someone else.”

Common signs of stress include sleeping problems, sweating, loss of appetite, and difficulty concentrating. You may feel anxious, irritable, low in self-esteem, have racing thoughts, worry constantly or go over things in your head.

You may notice that you lose your temper more easily, drink more or act unreasonably. You may also experience headaches, muscle tension or pain, or dizziness. Stress causes a surge of hormones in your body. These stress hormones are released to enable you to deal with pressures or threats – the so-called 'fight or flight' response.

Paddy Love, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) Lead for the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, said:

“The free Stress Control programme is held once a week over six weeks and teaches skill and techniques for managing stress.

“The programme devised by Jim White and used widely around the world is available throughout Northern Ireland. More details of where and when the classes are happening are published on Stress Control NI Facebook Page, your local Health Trust Facebook pages and websites.”

Topics covered include an overview of what stress is, controlling your body, controlling your thoughts, controlling your actions, getting a good night’s sleep and planning for the future. Stress control is a class, not ‘group therapy’ – you do not have to talk about personal difficulties in front of others.

Liz Shaw (68) has previously attended the stress control programme in Belfast. She sought the advice of her GP for anxiety after a series of life events including the death of her son Conor from testicular cancer, her own ill-health, and mobility and balance issues.

Around two years after her son’s death, while on holiday Liz developed an extreme fear of falling and she found that she was constantly turning things over in her mind and questioning decisions she had made.

“All the feelings over the years that I had and that I had pushed down came out. I could hardly move; it was as if my whole body was paralysed with the fear of falling. That all eats at your confidence. I could hardly get from my bed to the bathroom – I was so afraid of falling over.”

Liz went to her GP and asked for help. The GP recommended Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). Stress control classes were also recommended after she attended CBT.

“The prospect of going to the classes was terrifying, but I went,” said Liz.

“It is all anonymous, nobody asked us our names, we didn’t have to speak about our personal issues. I found the classes comforting because I felt that I wasn’t alone. The classes went through a number of different scenarios and I was able to apply them to my own life.”

Liz said that within a few weeks of going to classes she noticed a change in how she was feeling. She said that now when she is feeling anxious, she refers back to learning from the classes.

“I would say to anyone who is feeling anxious or stressed to go along to the classes – give it a try.

“The class had people of all ages; we were all different, from entirely backgrounds. My GP had explained to me that I was going to have to work at this, and I still have to; but I think I am better equipped now to deal with whatever happens in my life,” she added.

A new round of Stress Control classes will begin in a number of locations in the Belfast, Southern and Western Trust areas in the week beginning 6 of November.

To find out more on the upcoming stress control classes across Northern Ireland see www.pha.site/stresscontrol