Arlene Foster and Martin McGuinness reveal how they cope with the stresses of their jobs
A new report by Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke has revealed two-fifths of people here regularly feel burdened by money and work fears. We talk to politicians and well-known personalities about how they deal with worry.
Money worries and the pressure of the workplace are the two main reasons why more of us in Northern Ireland are suffering from stress more often, according to a new report.
The latest findings by Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke show that two-fifths of people here regularly feel stressed out, with almost half of 35-64 year olds reporting "considerable levels of stress on a regular basis".
While all age groups feel high levels of stress (39%) - women suffer more than men, with 45% of females compared to 34% of males. Meanwhile a quarter of us don't feel any stress at all.
The survey, which is part of NICHS's Give Stress A Rest campaign in the run-up to World Stroke Awareness Day on Saturday, aims to raise awareness of what causes stress and how to cope with it.
Fidelma Carter, public health director from NI Chest Heart and Stroke, says: "In some people, prolonged or frequent stress can lead to an increase in blood pressure, a risk factor for stroke and heart disease. Some people may turn to bad habits as a way of managing their stress, such as drinking alcohol, smoking and comfort eating."
The charity is offering a confidential online stress test with advice and tips on how to cope. There will also be healthy and stress-free recipes on its social media to help people eat well.
We talk to high profile people here to find out their stress-busting techniques.
Visit nichs.org.uk to take the stress test
‘If you are having any difficulties speak to your GP’
First Minister Arlene Foster (46) lives in Co Fermanagh with her husband, Brian Foster. They have three children, Sarah (16), George (14) and Ben (9). She says:
In today’s fast-paced society, it can be incredibly difficult to press the pause button, step back and take time to relax. Stress can manifest itself in many ways and, all too often, it can lead to more serious medical difficulties.
It is important that we all recognise the physical and mental signs of stress, not just in others but in ourselves.
From my own perspective, nothing can beat a walk through the beautiful Fermanagh countryside to make me feel re-invigorated and relaxed.
I commend the Northern Ireland Chest, Heart and Stroke Association for this awareness campaign and would urge anyone who is experiencing difficulties to speak to their GP.”
‘Taking my dog out helps me gather my thoughts’
Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness (66), lives in Londonderry with his wife, Bernadette Canning. They have four children and grandchildren. He says:
Stress is something that impacts on people in all walks of life. Different people are stressed by different things but the important thing is to recognise when you are stressed and give yourself the time and space to manage it.
The position of Deputy First Minister comes with a large amount of responsibility to make sure we improve the lives of all our people.
This can be stressful and rewarding in equal measure.
I find daily exercise like walking my dog Buttons is a real stress-buster and allows me to gather my thoughts and step off the treadmill of work.
I fully support the Give Stress a Rest campaign and would encourage people to take responsibility for managing their stress levels and overall health and wellbeing.”
‘It’s so important to have right balance’
Danni Barry, (30), from Mayobridge, Co Down, is a Michelin star chef and head chef at EIPIC in Belfast. She says:
I’d be lying if I said the heat of the kitchen doesn’t stress me out from time to time — or every day more like. I absolutely love what I do, but cooking for a number of people ensuring each and every dish is cooked and presented to perfection is definitely stressful.
I agree with the survey in that work is probably what would cause me the most stress in my life, but it also brings me huge satisfaction too.
But it’s important to have a balance. I know when I’m stressed as I usually have trouble sleeping and this leads to my being quite irritable and not eating well.
However, I’m usually quite quick to realise when I’m feeling stressed and try to manage it by spending time outdoors and seeing family and friends. It’s really important to manage stress because it can have such a negative impact on our physical and mental health.”
‘Running and a yoga class work wonders’
Cathy Martin, (42), is director of Belfast Fashionweek. She lives in North Down with her daughter, Valentina (4). She says:
The two main contributing factors of my stress are being self-employed and being a single mum. As much as I love being both, it means I am switched on 24/7. Being self-employed also brings a level of unpredictability that you wouldn’t necessarily get in a typical nine-to-five job.
The type of work I’m in also brings with it huge pressures — managing events means I often have lots of balls up in the air at the same time. When I’m stressed I really notice the effect it has on me — my heart rate increases, I feel overwhelmed and I get palpitations. I’m so aware of the negative effect stress has on my body and my mind, and where I used to reach for comfort food, now (hopefully) I manage it much better. I go for a run on the beach three times a week — after I’ve survived the daily school run and my daughter’s safely in the classroom with lunch, uniform and hair intact. It’s the perfect way to refocus my mind for the day ahead. I also take a private yoga class once a week which is my ‘me time’, which does absolute wonders.
Stress is part of everyday life but it’s so important that you manage it healthily as it doesn’t just affect you but can put everyone around you on edge, too.”
‘Playing sport really helps me to switch off’
Pete Snodden, (35), is a presenter with Cool FM. He lives in Bangor with his wife, Julia, and their daughters, Ivana (5) and Eleyna (2). He says:
I’m not surprised at these statistics at all. The pace of modern life is full-on. Everyone is contactable 24/7, everyone has a phone and if your work requires you to have email (tell me a job that doesn’t) you’re never really away from your job. Also ping notifications for everything from Facebook to LinkedIn can have you on high alert. Being contactable 24/7 also means people feel they have to reply there and then.
I’m probably as stressed as the next person, but I really try not to be.
As I’ve got older I’m certainly not as on edge as I used to be. Now I know that getting time to chill is extremely important but I could probably do with a bit more sleep.
Trying to get everything done in a day is what stresses me out, as I hate to let anyone down. My own expectations are high.
Despite the fact I know stress isn’t good for you and feeling that way won’t change anything, shirking off those worries can be difficult. Playing sport definitely helps and I play hockey during the winter and golf in the summer, with the odd game of five-a-side football thrown in. During the hockey season I train twice a week with my team and play a match on a Saturday. No matter what’s happened that day it gives me the opportunity to switch off and I feel a lot better afterwards.”
‘Sleep is great ... but I don’t get enough of it’
Broadcaster Eamonn Holmes (56) lives in Surrey with wife Ruth Langsford and their son, Jack (14). He has three grown-up children, Declan, Rebecca and Niall, from his first marriage. He says:
It’s amazing what we allow ourselves to be stressed about. Sometimes the smallest things can cause the biggest anxiety — and much of it will depend on what else is going on in our lives and how we are dealing with that. I am probably addicted to stress — as someone who has been hosting five-days-a-week live telly for 36 years — it doesn’t come much scarier than that. So obviously I do experience stress, probably everyday — but I seem to have developed ways of dealing with it.
What causes me the most stress is office politics, surviving in a dog-eat-dog business and dealing with other people constantly having opinions about what you do and how you do it.
Sleep is a great manager of stress — unfortunately I don’t get enough of it, so being with family, friends and escaping into a make believe world of films or football helps me a lot.
I’m very aware of the impact that stress can have on my health — I am only 33 years of age — so look at what stress has done to me.”
‘I have learned how to recognise my limits’
Suzanne Wylie is chief executive of Belfast City Council. She is married to John and lives in Belfast with their children Rebecca (23), Natalie (20) and Stewart (17). She says:
Stress at high levels for prolonged periods is not good for our overall health and wellbeing, and, for me, interferes with ability to perform at work and enjoy life and family.
Of course, I experience stress in my job but I have learned to recognise what my limits are and what to do to release the pressure.
Making sure I get some exercise and take time out at weekends — things like taking the dog to the beach, which you just can’t beat, in my book. I also see spending time with my three children as stress relief — it helps get my equilibrium back. My advice is to recognise what constitutes too much stress for you and find ways to clear your mind and stimulate some other emotions, and get active if you can.”