Stress Awareness Month is recognized every April since 1992, but the recent pandemic makes the recognition of this month particularly important. Learning to cope with our stress and finding healthy ways to deal with trying situations can help us live healthy and positive lives.
What does stress mean to you?
We all experience stress, but we experience it in different ways. As a result, there is no single definition for stress. However, the American Institute of Stress defines it as a “physical, mental, or emotional strain or tension.”
A 2017 study from the American Psychological Association found the most common sources of stress among Americans are the “future of our nation” (63% of respondents mentioned), Money (62%), Work (61%), political climate (57%), violence/crime (51%).
Effecting more than just your mind
Long-term stress can prove to be more than just a mental issue. From headaches to stomach disorders to depression – even very serious issues like stroke and heart disease can come as a result of stress.
When experiencing stressful situations, specific stress hormones rush into your bloodstream leading to increased heart rate, blood pressure, and glucose levels. This is helpful in emergency situations, but having this “rush” for extended periods of time is dangerous and makes susceptible to a host of health problems.
Learn to overcome issues you can not change
Sometimes we have no power to change what is stressing us out. During these times the Federal Occupational Health recommends changing your approach to situations. Try to…
- Recognize when you don’t have control, and let it go.
- Avoid getting anxious about situations that you cannot change.
- Take control of your reactions and focus your mind on something that makes you feel calm and in control.
- Develop a vision for healthy living, wellness, and personal growth, and set realistic goals to help you realize your vision.
The CDC provides some basic ideas to help you cope with stress…
- Take care of yourself – eat healthily, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, give yourself a break if you feel stressed.
- Discuss your problems with a parent, friend, or another trusted source.
- Avoid drugs and alcohol.
- Recognize when you need more help – know when to talk to a psychologist, social worker, or counselor if things continue.
Potentially the most valuable takeaway here is knowing how to talk to others about your stress. This goes both ways. You need to know how to discuss your problems with others, as well as how to talk to those approaching you with struggles. For resources to help facilitate this discussion, see the “Tips” section on this CDC webpage.