It’s Stress Awareness Month in April.
There’s no denying how stressful life can be from financial insecurity, overall wellbeing, concerns about family, friends and the many other aspects of life that we simply have no control over.
Chronic stress can be a driver of poor physical and mental health and create an unhealthy cycle that’s difficult to break, so it’s important to practice de-stressing and learn techniques for how to deal with stress.
More than 70 percent of Americans report that they suffer from at least one symptom of stress, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
That is one reason why April of each year is designated as Stress Awareness Month, a national campaign to educate the public on how common chronic stress is and its effects on our individual and societal wellness.
Stress Awareness Month – What are the Symptoms of Stress?
Though healthcare experts believe there is much more to be learned about how stress affects our health, it’s clear that it has a huge impact. In many cases, people are unaware that too much stress can alter their quality of life.
The Mayo Clinic reports that some of the most common symptoms of stress can include:
- Muscle tension and body aches
- Depression and feelings of hopelessness
- Social withdrawal
- Chest pain
- High blood pressure
- Drug and alcohol misuse and dependence
- Issues of overeating or under eating
All of these symptoms can make life unpleasant as well decrease the body’s immune system and lead to even greater problems with our health.
One of the key aspects of managing, and learning how to cope with stress is to recognize the symptoms early and take steps to, well, de-stress ourselves.
Here are 6 Tips for How to Deal With Stress (De-Stressing in Stressful Times)
There are many techniques people use to de-stress, but some coping mechanisms like drinking too much alcohol, can actually create more stress in the long run. These tips below are healthy ways for managing stressful life situations.
1. Exercise Regularly For Dealing With Stress
It’s not always easy to fit 30 minutes to an hour of exercise into our busy schedules, but making the time is extremely important.
From brisk walks to hikes, or even more rigorous activity like cycling or high intensity interval training, exercise helps our body produce and release endorphins, a neurochemical associated with mood.
Exercise is also fundamental for maintaining strong muscles, managing our weight, and lowering levels of cortisol, a natural chemical associated with chronic stress.
2. Find Time to Chill (Meditate)
Meditation can be intimidating for some people, so call it whatever you like, but even five to 10 minutes of consistent mindful meditative practices, reports Harvard Medical School, can “ease psychological stresses like anxiety, depression and pain.”
If you’re unsure how to chill and meditate for a few minutes, there are quite a few helpful apps on the market such as Headspace, and many of them are free.
3. Don’t “Borrow Trouble”
“Borrowing trouble” simply means worrying about things outside of our control.
Obviously, this is easier said than done because it’s almost impossible not to worry about events or issues that are important to us.
That said, simply recognizing that we might not be able to control other people or situations helps to lower our stress level.
We do have the power to control the way we think and, therefore, when worry starts to creep in, simply remind yourself that it is not helpful to ruminate on it.
4. Treat Yourself to Some Joy
Without going overboard, we can be nice to ourselves in healthy ways. Each person is unique, so this will mean different things for different people.
Going to the movies regularly, spending time with our loved ones, enjoying a restaurant we’ve always wanted to eat at or indulging in a hobby are simple ways to create joy and happiness.
Other activities like watercolor painting or working on puzzles, can provide us with a sense of pleasure and peace.
5. Write It Out By Journaling
Keeping a journal as an adult might sound silly to some, but it is actually an excellent place to contextualize situations, emotions and feelings that are leading to symptoms of stress.
Writing down our fears and worries every day or each night before bed can help us get them out of our heads and onto paper, where they might not seem quite so scary and stressful.
6. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask For Help
If long-term stress has turned the corner into chronic anxiety and depression, or it leads to a dependence on alcohol or drugs as a way to self-medicate, there is no shame in seeking help.
There are entire fields of medicine and therapy devoted to these issues because they are so incredibly common and treatable.
It might be difficult at first, but making the choice to get treatment for depression, addiction, or a combination of both can be the first step to a much better, happier, and healthier life.
Managing the impact of stress by itself is much easier and than when it leads to addiction as well, requiring dual diagnosis treatment for both conditions.
During Stress Awareness Month in April, take the time to do a mental health check on your own stress or someone you care about, and discover the techniques that work best for helping manage stressful situations that occur in your life.
Use the hashtag #StressAwarenessMonth when posting helpful articles or information in social media so they can be easily discovered by others.