Observing Stress Awareness Month 2022: What Should You Know About Stress?

Updated May 25, 2022 by BetterHelp Editorial Team

April is Stress Awareness Month. The purpose of Stress Awareness Month, observed since April 1992, is to raise awareness about stress, its impacts, and how to better manage or prevent it from protecting your physical and mental well-being. In honor of Stress Awareness Month, it's time to discuss some facts about stress, including common causes, recognizing stress in yourself, and what you can do about it.

The Truth About Stress

Do You Need Help With Stress Management - Or Something Else?

Although stress in small doses is to be expected - and is something, we're equipped to handle - the same is not true for stress that's ongoing or left unattended to, which can have serious consequences. The truth about stress is that it affects the entire body and can negatively impact your well-being. Ongoing stress is a risk factor for heart disease, dementia, stroke, accelerated aging, depression, anxiety, insulin resistance, prolonged digestive issues and disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or ulcers, and even early mortality. Stress can impact your outlook on life, interpersonal relationships, performance in the workplace, school, or other areas of life, and more.

Common Causes Of Stress

Considering that stress can be detrimental, you might wonder what's most apt to contribute to it. Here are some known common causes of stress in the United States in recent years:

  • Cost of living and finances. As of 2022, the increase in prices for everyday items, including things like the price of gas, grocery, and electric or energy bills, is one of the top sources of stress in the United States.
  • The workplace has been one of the most substantial stressors in the United States for quite some time, and the pandemic has further complicated this concern for many. It's noted that low salaries, large or heavy workloads, and unrealistic expectations at work can all heighten workplace stress significantly.
  • The pandemic. According to the American Psychological Association or APA, 67% of people in the United States say they have faced heightened stress throughout the coronavirus 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 other topics.
  • Relationships and family life. Interpersonal relationships can include romantic relationships, friendships, and more.
  • Personal health and well-being.
  • Personal safety.

Of course, these are only some things that can cause or contribute to higher stress levels. The good news is that strategies can be used to employ stress relief and help you protect your well-being from the potential consequences of stress both in the short and longterm.

How To Recognize Signs Of Stress

We talked about some of the long-term impacts of stress, but what signs might show up sooner? Understanding the signs of stress can help you recognize them to take action.

  • Increased irritability might include getting agitated or frustrated more easily, snapping at loved ones, or raising one's voice.
  • Feelings or symptoms of depression can include but aren't restricted to the loss of interest in activities you'd typically enjoy, feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness, changes in appetite, a low or depressed mood, excessive crying, and emotional numbness and slowed bodily movements.
  • I. distress. This may include but isn't restricted to nausea, stomach cramps, diarrhea, constipation, and indigestion.
  • Feeling lonely as a result of stressors.
  • Body aches and muscle tension.
  • Mood swings.
  • Feelings of overwhelming.
  • Trouble sleeping.
  • Headaches.

Take a moment to check in with yourself and see if you notice the signs of stress in yourself. If you aren't feeling like yourself, it doesn't hurt to reach out to someone and talk about what's on your mind. Alongside the other consequences of long-term stress, these signs may be ongoing if they aren't addressed. Once you acknowledge that what you're experiencing is stress, there are solutions you can employ to address it.

Powerful Solutions For Stress Relief

Thankfully, our research on stress doesn't focus on the unfavorable impacts alone. A large body of research has also revealed a range of solutions for stress relief. Here are some powerful, research-backed solutions for stress in honor of Stress Awareness Month:

  1. Spending time with others. Positive social connections and support are proven by research to reduce stress and improve health in other areas.
  2. Breathing exercises and meditation. Both breathing exercises and meditation practices are shown to help individuals relieve stress.
  3. Progressive muscle relaxation. Progressive muscle relaxation, like breathing exercises and meditation, is an example of an accessible, 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.
  4. 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, where you identify five things that you can see, four things that you can touch, three things that you can hear, two things that you can smell, and finally, one thing that you can taste.
  5. Physical activity. Physical activity in many forms, including but not limited to yoga and walking, can relieve stress and promote physical and mental well-being in other ways. It doesn't need to be extensive or intense and can be modified to meet your individual needs.
  6. Addressing the root cause. Sometimes, if possible, lifestyle shifts are important for stress management. This can include taking lessons in your personal life or at work, limiting time spent online if online activity increases your stress, and setting boundaries. However, this can also look like employing radical acceptance and focusing on what you can control instead of what you can't in cases where you may not be able to change something - or might not be able to change it right away.
  7. Art and other hobbies. Having hobbies is good for your health in more ways than one; various hobbies, including creative hobbies, may promote stress relief. Outside of art, listening to music, spending time with animals, gardening, reading, social activities, and hobbies involving physical activity are possible choices. It's okay to try different activities until you find something you like.
    Do You Need Help With Stress Management - Or Something Else?
  8. Time spent outdoors. Research indicates that even a small amount of time spent outdoors can relieve stress.
  9. Journaling. Journaling can offer clarity on how you feel and aid problem solving, and it's also a way to vent healthily. Various studies on journaling show that it can impact your well-being positively, with benefits like stress relief and more.
  10. Cognitive reframing. Cognitive reframing is a tool that may be taught in therapy, but it is possible to work on it outside of therapeutic settings, too.
  11. Therapy. Research has proven therapy lowers stress levels and helps with other concerns, such as depression and anxiety, which may share crossover symptoms with stress.

Practicing the activities above and putting in the effort to manage stress in your life is an excellent way to celebrate Stress Awareness Month and support your health all year. Our needs are diverse in lifestyle, rest, and overall stress management, so know that it's okay if the best way to support your needs differs from someone else. If you find it challenging to manage your current stressors, need help adapting healthy coping skills, or if you and your life are otherwise affected by stress, don't hesitate to reach out to a medical or mental health professional who can aid you in finding powerful stress management techniques that work for you. Not only can it help you find relief and address stress in the present, but your future self will likely thank you!

Get Help For Stress Online

Online therapy makes getting the mental health support you need more convenient. Research studies prove that online therapy is as effective as in-person care for various concerns, like depression and anxiety. When you use an online therapy platform like BetterHelp, you can discuss stress or anything else on your mind from anywhere with a reliable internet connection.

BetterHelp has continued to improve, with over 20,000 independent therapists offering services through the platform. If you're ready to get started, sign up for online therapy, or read the therapist reviews and FAQs on the BetterHelp website.

No matter how you get help, you deserve to find relief from stress and live the happiest, healthiest version of your life. Look out for Mental Health Awareness Month coming in May! 

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