Stress Awareness Month – Put your own mask on first then help others

April is Stress Awareness Month and at YMCA Brunel Group, we believe in the importance of balancing Body, Mind, and Spirit. This is symbolised by our YMCA logo and the use of a triangle that runs through all our work – the 3 corners represent: mind, body and spirit and was what the YMCA was built upon.  The YMCA is 180 years old this year – therefore you could say we were well ahead of the game in recognising the importance of balancing mind, body, spirit and how they are interconnected in allowing for a holistic approach to health and wellbeing.

We are also strong believers in the idea of putting your own stress relief mask on first before trying to help others. Ultimately, we owe it to ourselves to be in the best health possible. In this day and age of algorithms and filtered lives put on display, being honest and open about how you really feel can be tough. Through our work we see a lot of stressed people – be it coming into our gym or through our supported housing, in our youth work or stressed parents at our nurseries. We are also conscious of stress levels our own staff are under and are always looking for ways to improve the work life balance. If our staff are stressed and exhausted – they are not going to be in the best place possible to help others.  We are currently working on new staff wellness initiatives to help with this; from discounted gym memberships and free online classes to counselling. It is all work in progress, and we are all on a journey. Thankfully, we are more open these days about talking about stress and some of the stigma attached to asking for help has gone.

Here are some tips on what you can do to re-balance and de-stress:


Exercise helps de-stress. This doesn’t mean you have to hit the gym and pound the treadmill (although if that’s your thing, go for it!) – personally I have just discovered boxing and that is definitely helping with my stress levels. However, a walk is a great place to start and if possible, head out into nature – maybe some woodland, canal path or local park.  Physical activity can help in the production of endorphins – these help you feel good – I promise!  If your body is showing signs of stress (for example: headaches or migraines, difficulty breathing, panic attacks, sleep problems, aches, chest pains and high blood pressure, indigestion or heartburn) – talk to your GP and get checked.


Be in the moment and practice mindfulness. This is easier than it sounds – it’s about just trying to really focus on the here and now. Whilst you are making yourself a cup of coffee or tea – really focus on the process, slow it down and enjoy it!  A good exercise (especially if you are outside) is to start to focus on the different sensations around you – try and identify 5 different things you can see; then 4 things you can feel; 3 different things you can hear; then focus on 2 different smells and finally identify one taste.  There are also lots of free wonderful mindfulness and meditation Apps available that are really worth trying.  However perhaps check out your local YMCA or leisure centre or yoga studio for guided meditations, sound therapy and yoga nidra sessions.


If you are feeling stressed – try talking to someone, sharing your concerns is a really good way to ease the load of carrying your concerns and worries.  If that doesn’t sound like something you are ready to do – try writing them down – start to journal your emotions.  However, if you are concerned then talk to your GP – they will be best placed to advise you.