Stress awareness month has been held every April, since 1992.
During this annual period, health care professionals and health promotion experts work to increase public awareness about both the causes and potential cures for this modern epidemic. According to the Mental Health Foundation 74% of UK adults have felt so stressed at some point over the last year they have felt overwhelmed or unable to cope. In fact, millions of working age people around the UK are experiencing such high levels of stress that their health is at risk. Despite stress being a significant factor in mental health problems such as depression and anxiety, it’s concerning that stress’s impact is not taken as seriously as other physical health concerns
Those of us who are of working age will have experienced our fair share of stresses over the years; but those of us that work in London will have experienced the particular kind of stress associated with getting to work on time while navigating London’s buses, trains and tubes.
For Stress Awareness Month, Hassan Khan, Project Coordinator for London Vision, has written about the unique stresses he experiences just trying to get to work as a blind person.
Commuting to work
As you sit on the tube, idly wiping the sleep from your eyes, reading or lost in your smart phone, across from you sits a blind guy, also making the same journey, but with stress etched all over his face. He wonders whether today will be the day the announcements stop working, if he isn’t met off the train, or even the day one of you walks into him, causing him to shout: “Watch where you’re going!”
As a blind person, my journey into work isn’t as simple as one would assume, and I have more than just physical obstacles to contend with! It’s like World War III in my head, the initial battle is with the Uber app: will it work? Will I get a driver that stops in front of me? Will a driver refuse my journey because I’ve sent a note stating that I’m blind?
Once I track my driver down, I’m often dropped off close to bus lanes or left to battle busy roads, because they have another job. As soon as I have exited their car, my security is no longer their responsibility and they’re off before you know it. At this point, out comes my cane and the pure determination that screams at me: “Failure will never overtake me if my determination to succeed is strong enough!”
Sadly, it’s not just Uber drivers abandoning me in the road or lack of announcements on trains and buses that add to my stress levels, often it’s my fellow commuters. In the last month I’ve been elbowed in the mouth, grabbed by the shoulders and shoved, screamed at and told to travel after 10.00am. As you can imagine, experiencing all of this before I get to work can ruin my day before it’s even really started.
Managing my stress
How do I manage then? I tend to listen to podcasts or audio books whilst on the move, which usually reduces the stress, and stops me from thinking about announcements and what other people are doing or thinking. I also make sure to give myself extra time and put effort into planning my journeys.
Above all I’m not shy to talk about the stress of travelling to work. The most crucial thing you can do when you are stressed or anxious is to make sure you are continuing to look after yourself. Make time to relax when you need to and learn to say no to requests that are too much for you.
I am lucky to work for an organisation such as London Vision, where I am surrounded by empathetic colleagues and managers who support me through the sometimes unbearable process of just getting to work. I have an understanding manager who allows me to avoid peak hours, which is extremely kind and helps my stress levels, and my work.
As I said previously, one of the most important things to do when tackling stress is to talk about it. In order to address this epidemic we need to reach out to friends, family and colleagues; or to professionals.
For more information and for useful links, please visit Anxiety UK’s website.