April is Stress Awareness Month

Stress Awareness Month has been recognized every April since 1992. Stress is a natural physical and mental reaction to life experiences. Everyone expresses stress from time to time. Anything from everyday responsibilities like work and family to serious life events such as a new diagnosis, or the death of a loved one can trigger stress. For immediate, short-term situations, stress can be beneficial to your health. It can help you cope with potentially serious situations. Your body responds to stress by releasing hormones that increase your heart and breathing rates and ready your muscles to respond.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major effect on our lives. Many of us are facing challenges that can be stressful, overwhelming, and cause strong emotions in adults and children. Public health actions, such as social distancing, are necessary to reduce the spread of COVID-19, but they can make us feel isolated and lonely and can increase stress and anxiety. Learning to cope with stress in a healthy way will make you, the people you care about, and those around you become more resilient.

Stress can cause the following:

Feelings of fear, anger, sadness, worry, numbness, or frustration

Changes in appetite, energy, desires, and interests

Difficulty concentrating and making decisions

Difficulty sleeping or nightmares

Physical reactions, such as headaches, body pains, stomach problems, and skin rashes

Worsening of chronic health problems

Worsening of mental health conditions

Increased use of tobacco, alcohol, and other substances

It is natural to feel stress, anxiety, grief, and worry during the COVID-19 pandemic. Below are ways that you can help yourself, others, and your community manage stress.

Healthy Ways to Cope with Stress:

Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including those on social media. It’s good to be informed, but hearing about the pandemic constantly can be upsetting. Consider limiting news to just a couple times a day and disconnecting from phone, TV, and computer screens for a while.

Take care of your body

Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate

Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals

Exercise regularly

Get plenty of sleep

Avoid excessive alcohol, tobacco, and substance use

Make time to unwind. Try to do some other activities you enjoy.

Continue with routine preventive measures (such as vaccinations, cancer screenings, etc.) as recommended by your healthcare provider. Get vaccinated with a COVID-19 vaccine when available.

What else can I do?

Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling. Connect with your community- or faith-based organizations. While social distancing measures are in place, try connecting online, through social media, or by phone or mail.

There are plenty of resources and helpful organizations available to help with your own struggles regarding stress. One way of doing something for stress awareness month is the 30-day challenge. The 30-day challenge encourages you to do one action for your physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing every day. This can be really helpful in changing your mindset and outlook on stress, as well as finding ways to help cope with your own stresses. You may learn a lot about yourself and the triggers that come with stress too. 

Disclaimer: Health experts suggest that you talk to your doctor before you start, change or modify your medications, lifestyle or current treatment regimen.

Picture credit: Does stress management become more difficult as you age? – Harvard Health

References

April is Stress Awareness Month: Tips to Help You Cope – Williams Integracare Clinic (integracareclinics.com)

Coping with stress (cdc.gov)

Does stress management become more difficult as you age? – Harvard Health

Mental Health and Coping During COVID-19 | CDC

Stress Awareness Month (April, 2021) | Days Of The Year

Symptoms of Anxiety or Depressive Disorder and Use of Mental Health Care Among Adults During the COVID-19 Pandemic — United States, August 2020–February 2021 | MMWR (cdc.gov)

The Effects of Stress on Your Body (healthline.com)

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