Did you know that April is National Stress Awareness Month? Stress is a normal part of life. Positive stress can even motivate you to achieve your goals and improve your life.
However, negative stress makes you feel pressured, anxious, and worried about the future. An abundance of either kind of stress can be detrimental to your mental and physical health, so it’s important to learn how to manage stress effectively.
Whether you are experiencing situational stress (temporary stress caused by life events such as a new job, divorce, or death in the family) or chronic stress (continuous ongoing stress regardless of your environment), there are many ways to reduce and manage the stress in your life.
Keep reading to learn more about how you can reduce your stress levels in the coming months.
What is National Stress Awareness Month?
April has been designated as National Stress Awareness Month to inform the public about the dangers of stress and teach how to prevent and manage the stress in our lives.
By reducing our levels of chronic, high-intensity stress, we can achieve better mental health overall. Individuals need to be aware of the dangers associated with intense stress (e.g., increased blood pressure) to prevent possible detrimental effects on one’s physical or emotional wellbeing.
Stress is a normal part of life, but there is a limit. Too much stress can result in fatigue, chronic illness, and much more. Below are some of the most common symptoms you may experience if you are under a lot of stress.
What are the Signs of Too Much Stress?
The most obvious sign that you are experiencing too much stress is that you are dealing with an ongoing sense of anxiety. This sensation may develop gradually over time so you may not even notice until it begins to affect your life.
Other signs of stress include;
- feeling overwhelmed, nervous, restless, or tense
- unexplainable irritability
- trouble concentrating or completing tasks
- difficulty sleeping or poor sleep quality
- digestive discomfort
- chest pain or racing heart
- increased blood pressure
- sore muscles from tension
The Toll of Stress on Your Heart
Most people think of stress as a psychological problem, without realizing that it can cause an array of acute and chronic physical ailments as well. Physical effects can range from mild headaches and sleep deprivation to severe depression and panic attacks. Symptoms might include digestive disorders, asthma attacks, ulcers – just about anything you can imagine.
Stress takes a tremendous toll on the human body overall but it can be especially dangerous to the heart.
Experiencing chronic stress can cause a person’s heart rate to race and their blood pressure to rise. This happens because the brain’s sympathetic nervous system is activated, which in turn leads to increased secretion of epinephrine from the adrenal glands.
The fight-or-flight response causes adrenaline production by releasing beta-endorphin into your bloodstream as well, releasing natural painkillers that make you feel better for a bit but will eventually lead to exhaustion or burnout if it persists too long.
In extreme cases, this condition may have serious consequences like permanent heart damage, heart disease, stroke, or even death.
For National Stress Awareness Month, pay special attention to any physical symptoms you may be experiencing. If you feel they are due to too much stress, take a step back, assess the situation, and determine what you can do to reduce the level of stress you are experiencing.
Plan for Your Daily Tasks
To reduce the level of stress you are experiencing, plan your daily tasks before you start them. This will help you focus on the task at hand, and not be distracted by the big picture. Break large overwhelming jobs into smaller tasks and check each part off your list as you do it, the sense of accomplishment will help everything feel more manageable.
If you find yourself constantly rushing from one task to the next, it may be because you are feeling pressured, anxious, and stressed by the fact that you haven’t finished everything on your to-do list.
Ask for help whenever possible. Planning, prioritizing, and delegating will help relieve some of that stress, allowing you to feel more relaxed, and less stressed as you work toward accomplishing your goals.
Starting an exercise routine is a great way to improve your physical and psychological health, and there is no better time to begin than Stress Awareness Month!
Exercise has a ton of health benefits – including relieving stress. As you work toward reducing the amount of stress you are experiencing, regular exercise can help you relax, feel less stressed, and have better digestion.
Physical activity can also help you stay focused, and keep your mind off other things that may be stressing you out. Physical activity can be as simple as taking a walk, doing yoga, or taking a step aerobics class.
If you are feeling overwhelmed and stressed by your work, or other responsibilities in your life, stopping for a quick walk around the block can be a serious stress buster. Exercise can help you relax, reduce stress levels, and focus so that you can be more productive with what you do each day.
Establish Healthy Habits
Healthy habits not only help you feel better but can also reduce the amount of stress you are experiencing.
Some healthy habits that may help reduce your stress include;
- Eat a balanced diet- a healthy, well-balanced diet can reduce the stress hormones your body releases.
- Limit alcohol- while drinking alcohol may provide temporary relief, this does not help your overall mental health in the long run.
- Get enough sleep- if you are dealing with increased stress, a lack of sleep can make things even worse. Try to stay consistent with your sleep schedule, and avoid staying up too late.
- Drink plenty of water – according to a 2018 study people who drank more water had a lower risk of anxiety, so drink up!
- Get regular exercise – Exercise increases your body’s production of endorphins, leaving you feeling happier and calmer.
Take Time for yourself
Stress can make you feel overwhelmed and frustrated. If you are a natural people-pleaser it can be hard to take time for yourself, but stopping for a little “me time” during a busy day is vital for your well-being.
But how do you make time for yourself, especially when you have a family and endless responsibilities? Create a schedule that includes time for relaxing and enjoyable activities. Schedule it on a calendar and commit to it, just as you do with a doctor’s appointment.
There is no right or wrong answer in terms of what you do when you take time for yourself. Some people may want to take a nap while others want to take a weekend getaway, a relaxing bubble bath, or time alone with a good book. The idea is to choose an activity that brings down your stress levels and slows your mind.
Reduce Stress Levels During Stress Awareness Month
Some stress is a natural part of life, but when you are experiencing strong, chronic stress or your stress is beginning to affect your physical or mental health, it’s time to do something about it. Follow the tips we’ve outlined for you to help calm your stress and feel more in control of your life.