Stress awareness month has been recognized every April since 1992. This year it seems particularly important to focus on as we navigate through learning to cope with stress and find healthy ways to deal with situations.
Everyone experiences stress – however, many experience it in very different ways. Because of this, there is no single definition for stress, but the most common explanation is a physical, mental, or emotional strain or tension. Stress is a reaction to a situation where a person feels anxious or threatened. Learning healthy ways to cope and getting the proper care and support can help reduce stressful feelings and symptoms.
• Disbelief, shock and numbness
• Feeling sad, frustrated and helpless
• Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
• Headaches, back pains and stomach problems
• Smoking or the use of alcohol or drugs
When a person is placed in a stressful situation, specific stress hormones rush into the bloodstream leading to an increase in heart rate, blood pressure and glucose levels. This is helpful in emergency situations, but having this “rush” for extended periods of time can be dangerous and make a person susceptible to a variety of other health concerns such as anxiety, depression, stomach disorders, migraines, strokes, heart disease, and substance use disorders.
Sometimes the stress in a person’s life is not something they do not have the power to change. When this happens, try to:
• Recognize when a feeling of not being in control is happening, and let it go.
• Avoid getting anxious about situations that cannot be changed.
• Take control of the reaction and focus the mind on something that creates a feeling of calm and a feeling of being in control.
• Develop a vision for healthy living, wellness, and personal growth.
• Set realistic goals to help realize the desired vision.
• Take care of yourself – eat healthy, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, give yourself a break if you feel stressed.
• Share your problems and how you are feeling and coping with a family member, friend, doctor, pastor or counselor.
• Avoid drugs and alcohol. These can create additional problems and increase the stress you are already feeling.
• Recognize when you need more help – know when to talk to a mental health professional if things persist.
Potentially the most valuable takeaway here is knowing how to talk to others about stress. This goes both ways, as you need to know how to discuss your problems with others as well as talk to anyone that comes to you with their concerns.