Inhale…Exhale…

April is Stress Awareness Month!

In 1993, Stress Awareness Month was created to bring awareness to the causes and cures for the “modern stress epidemic.” And after the intense year we had in 2020, there couldn’t be a more opportune time to talk about the effects stress has on our lives.

In an effort to raise awareness, we’re discussing the long-term implications of stress and how to cope with it in a healthy way.

The Effects of Stress

Not all stress is bad. Sometimes it gives us the extra push we need to perform well on a test, finish an assignment in time, or crush a presentation at work. And sometimes, stress comes from good things in our lives, like a wedding, a new baby, or an upcoming event or milestone. But stress can also be the result of hardships, like sicknesses, losses, or personal troubles.

Stress is not only detrimental to your mood and mindset, but it can also have very real negative effects on your health. When your body’s stress response system is constantly activated, it can alter your cortisol levels and other hormones in the body.

Long-term stress can put you at risk for the following:

  • Anxiety and depression
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Headaches
  • Digestive issues
  • Weight gain
  • High blood pressure
  • Memory and concentration issues
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke

Healthy Coping Mechanisms

Here are five tips to help get your stress under control:

1. Get Moving

This recommendation will come as a surprise to no one, but we promise it can really help! Channeling nervous energy into movement lets your body expel some of that pent-up stress in a cathartic way. Aside from the endorphins your brain releases when you exercise, just the activity alone can take the edge off. Going for a jog, brisk walk, or bike ride when it’s sunny out, dancing to your favorite playlist, practicing yoga, or even cleaning are all great mood-boosting stress busters!

2. Get to Bed

Getting proper rest is crucial for your body to function properly. It’s easier to become agitated when we’re tired because when we sleep, our brains recharge, and we can process emotions more clearly. Most adults need between 7-9 hours of sleep every night, and establishing a relaxing nighttime routine—and sticking to it—can help you maintain a healthy sleep cycle. For one week, we challenge you to de-stress before bed by putting all screens away an hour before you turn the lights off and using that time to relax. Take a bath, stretch, or read a book, and see if it makes a difference in the quality of your sleep and your mood that week!

3. Get Talking

The idea of socializing can get mixed reactions. Some people instantly feel better when they meet up with friends for a dinner or fun night out, but for others, the social anxiety is real and can end up making things worse. Whether you plan to attend a party or simply just give a friend or family member a call, socializing within your comfort zone is a wonderful stress reducer. Chatting, venting, and getting advice from our loved ones can help us manage stress better than we can on our own.

4. Get to Thinking

When thinking about coping with your stress, it should be looked at as a lifestyle change. In order for these habits to stick, we should take the time to reflect on what’s working and what we could do without. One of the best ways to track your progress is through journaling. Jot down the things you feel have helped your stress levels and those that don’t or make them worse. After a while, this will provide a rubric to how you mitigate your stress the best, hopefully allowing for long-term changes you can keep up with!

5. Get Organized

We know that some of these tips may sound easier to work in than they are because, hey, you’re busy—hence the stress! But one helpful way to make time for these acts of self-care is to literally pencil them in. Grab your planner and carve out time each week to practice these habits. Also, clutter and messes can make us feel frazzled and heighten anxiety, so try to focus on keeping a clean, calm living and working space. It may seem small but having a handle on these things can significantly help when life starts to get overwhelming.

Life is meant to be enjoyed! This Stress Awareness Month, we encourage you to take the steps necessary to prioritize your mental and physical health over your stressors.