Identify Signs of Stress and How to Self-Care
Stress is a normal part of life, and no one is immune to its effects. That's why Stress Awareness Month in April is focused on learning more about the warning signs and implementing techniques to reduce stress levels.
Stress is commonly defined as a physical, mental, or emotional strain on a person. Stressful situations result in specific hormones rushing into the bloodstream that lead to an increase in a person's heart rate, blood pressure, and glucose levels. While the body's natural reaction to stress can be helpful during an emergency, experiencing these reactions for long periods of time can be dangerous.
Stress Awareness Month
Stress Awareness Month started in 1992 to teach people about the causes and cures of stress. The importance of this month has grown over the last two years when the COVID-19 pandemic increasingly left people feeling overwhelmed and seeking support to overcome additional anxiety brought on by the virus. In 2022, organizers have adopted the theme of "Community" to highlight the need for people to feel support from others to combat stress. Lack of support can cause loneliness and isolation, the same feelings that many people experienced during the pandemic.
Impact of Stress on Your Body
Medical professionals have done extensive research and better understand that stress can impact all parts of our health. Stress touches each of us differently, but there are some common symptoms people experience. Here's a list of symptoms of stress that could indicate a need to address the stress in your life.
- Physical signs like headaches, sickness, and indigestion.
- Mental signs like mood changes that result in you being more irritable, inflexible, and short-tempered.
- Emotional signs that leave a person anxious, fearful, angry, frustrated, or sad.
- Behavioral signs that negatively impact sleep or lead to substance abuse problems.
Stress can change our behaviors and influence our interactions with others. Sometimes we get so used to dealing with it that it's hard to recognize it in ourselves. Long-term stress can have a massive negative impact on your life such as heart disease and depression.
If you notice a loved one struggling, speak up and offer support. Ignoring stress can result in more significant health issues than the ones listed above.
Tips for Stress Relief
The American Institute of Stress offers many self-assessments on their site to help you determine if you may need assistance in coping with the stress in your life. They also offer tips to help put stress in check.
Let go of what you can't control. Some situations cannot be changed. Avoid getting upset or anxious about those moments. Instead, try to control your reactions and focus on something that makes you feel calm.
Develop a vision for the life you want to live. This can include setting realistic goals for healthy living, wellness, and personal growth. Changing your mindset can be a powerful way to find control and better cope with stress.
Take care of your physical well-being. That means eating healthy meals, exercising regularly, and getting quality sleep. Those actions will allow you to feel more prepared to handle stress.
Talk to someone you trust. Sharing your feelings can allow you to let go of situations that are out of your control. The person may be a family member, friend, doctor, pastor, or counselor.
Know when to ask for help. It takes great strength to know when the stress you're experiencing is too much to handle on your own. Reach out and seek help if needed. A psychologist, social worker, or counselor can provide additional suggestions on how to handle specific stressful situations.
Celebrate Minority Health Month this April. With your help, educate people about the disproportionate burden of premature death and illness in minority populations across the country.