Since 1992, Stress Awareness Month has been observed with the intention of increasing knowledge about the impact of chronic and acute stress. During April, Stress Awareness Month offers a chance to spread awareness and increase your knowledge on managing or preventing stress. In honor of Stress Awareness Month, looking at facts about stress, including common causes, signs of stress, and how to cope with challenging moments, may be beneficial.
Understanding Stress: How Does Chronic Stress Impact The Body And Mind?
Stress in minor to moderate doses may be expected, as the body is equipped to handle these reactions. However, ongoing or unattended stress can have serious consequences. Chronic stress impacts the entire body and can harm well-being in the long term.
Ongoing stress is a risk factor for heart disease, dementia, stroke, accelerated aging, depression, anxiety, insulin resistance, prolonged digestive issues, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). In addition, chronic stress may impact your outlook on life, interpersonal relationships, performance in the workplace, and self-care.
Common Causes Of Stress
Considering that stress can be detrimental, it can be valuable to know what causes it. Below are some of the most common in the US.
Cost Of Living And Finances
As of 2023, the increase in prices for everyday items, including gas, grocery, and electric or energy bills, is one of the top sources of stress in the United States. In addition, as rental and mortgage rates rise, individuals may struggle to keep their housing.
The workplace has been one of the most substantial stressors in the United States for some time, further complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Low salaries, heavy workloads, and unrealistic expectations at work can all heighten workplace stress significantly.
The COVID-19 Pandemic
According to the American Psychological Association or APA, 67% of people in the United States say they have faced heightened stress throughout the pandemic.
Uncertainty About The Future
In addition to the pandemic, examples of concerns that may cause uncertainty might include planning for an individual's future, climate change, and current events.
Relationships And Family Life
Interpersonal relationships can include romantic relationships, friendships, and family connections. As relationships are essential for mental health and well-being, having stressful relationships or a lack of social support can cause significant stress.
Personal Health And Well-Being
Some people experience health concerns due to chronic illness or an unexpected disease diagnosis. Others may want to grow resilience against stress to improve their mental health and well-being.
If you have experienced a recent traumatic event or live in a community that is susceptible to crime, you may experience stress out of fear for your safety.
How To Recognize Signs Of Stress
Understanding the signs of stress may help you recognize them and find strategies that target the unique circumstances of your stressful situation. Below are a few of these indicators:
Increased irritability and anger
A loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
Changes in appetite
Changes in sleep patterns
Gastrointestinal distress like nausea, constipation, diarrhea, and indigestion
Body aches and muscle tension.
Headaches, especially tension headaches or migraines
Each day, check in with yourself to ask if you're experiencing any of the above signs of stress or burnout. If you recognize these signs, you might benefit from contacting someone you trust or a mental health professional. Alongside the other consequences of long-term stress, you may be living with a mental health condition if symptoms do not get better with time or effort.
Powerful Solutions For Stress Relief
Spending Time With Others
Positive social connections and support are proven by research to reduce stress and improve mental and physical health. Having appropriate social support resources builds resilience to stress and releases stress-relieving hormones that increase a sense of well-being.
Breathing Exercises And Meditation
In the 1970s, psychologists began to use the mindfulness meditation technique as a therapeutic intervention for managing symptoms of stress, anxiety, depression, and worry. The practice uses techniques like deep breathing to help individuals control their nervous systems, effectively reducing or halting the fight-or-flight response.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation, like breathing exercises and meditation, is an example of a cost-free way to relieve stress. This activity involves tensing and releasing muscles, moving from the top of your body to your toes or vice versa while inhaling and exhaling. You can find free scripts and videos that guide you through this activity online.
Other Grounding Activities
Grounding activities outside of breathing exercises and meditation may also be beneficial. For example, the 5-4-3-2-1 technique, also known as the five senses technique, may offer relief. In this exercise, you follow the following steps.
Name five objects you can see
Touch four objects
Name three sounds you can hear
Name two scents you can smell
Find one pleasant, healthy food to taste
Physical activity can come in several forms, including but not limited to yoga and walking. Exercise may relieve stress and promote physical and mental well-being by releasing endorphins. If you don't usually exercise, know that exercise doesn't necessarily have to be intensive to function. Some people walk or swim for exercise.
Addressing The Root Cause
Lifestyle shifts may be beneficial in stress management. For example, you might take lessons on stress management at work, limit time spent online, and take a class on setting boundaries. Stress management can also look like employing radical acceptance and focusing on what you can control instead of what you cannot.
Art And Hobbies
Having hobbies can benefit your health in multiple ways, as various hobbies, including creative hobbies, may promote stress relief. Outside of art, listening to music, spending time with animals, gardening, reading, socializing, and exercising are ways to reduce stress. Try different activities until you find one you enjoy and feel passionate about.
Time In Nature
Research indicates that even a minor amount of outdoor time can relieve stress. Nature can allow you to take a moment to absorb the beauty around you and get a break from professional or at-home duties.
Journaling can offer clarity on how you feel and aid problem-solving. It may also help you healthily vent your frustrations. Various studies on journaling show that it can impact your well-being positively, with benefits like stress relief and improved mental health.
Cognitive reframing is a tool that may be taught in therapy, but it can also be possible to learn on your own. With this reframing method, you shift your perspective by replacing negative or flawed thought patterns with more positive and realistic ones.
Therapy With A Licensed Professional
Each person can have diverse needs in lifestyle, rest, and overall stress management. If you find it challenging to manage your current stressors, need help adapting healthy coping skills, or believe it is too stressful to reach out for in-person care, you can try online therapy through a platform like BetterHelp.
Online therapy can make getting mental health support more convenient. Studies prove online therapy is as effective as in-person care for conditions like depression and anxiety. When you use an online therapy platform, you can discuss stress from home or any location with an internet connection. In addition, you can choose between phone, video, or chat sessions with your therapist.
What is the theme for Stress Awareness Month 2023?
The theme for National Stress Awareness Month in 2023 is "Looking After Yourself." This theme focuses on learning to adapt to life's challenges to improve our mental and emotional state. The goal is to help raise awareness of the connection between stress and mental health disorders while encouraging positive behavioral changes to manage stress effectively.
What month is stress awareness month?
April is National Stress Awareness Month. During this month, special focus is put on raising awareness about the modern day stress epidemic and its negative impact on our health. Throughout the month, various activities and campaigns help highlight why managing stress and promoting better mental health is important. For example, chronic stress may contribute to numerous health problems, including immune system challenges, diabetes, and separate mental health conditions.
How can we manage stress in 2023?
In 2023, we can manage stress through various strategies, including regular physical activity, mindfulness practices, and finding social support to improve emotional well-being. Free resources specifically created for stress management, such as daily de-stressing planners and online counseling services, are available to help people learn coping mechanisms and work through their own challenges with stress.
Is 2023 a stressful year?
Every year can present its challenges for stress, and 2023 is no exception. Factors such as global events, economic downfalls, and pandemics can contribute to stress levels. However, how stressful a year is can vary widely from person to person, as everyone experiences and reacts to stress differently. Still, individuals can recognize signs of poor mental health to take appropriate action.
What are the statistics for stress in 2023?
Stress remains one of the biggest public health challenges. In 2023, prevalent sources of stress among adults aged 35 to 44 included money-related issues, which affected 77% of this age group, followed closely by concerns about the economy at 74%. In addition, this demographic is more likely to report stress about paying for essentials compared to younger (18 to 34) and older (65+) age groups, at 67% versus 58% and 53%, respectively.
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