Stress Awareness Month: Tips for keeping tensions in check

April is recognized as National Stress Awareness Month to bring attention to the negative impact of stress. Managing stress is an essential component of a healthy lifestyle. Knowing how to manage stress can improve mental and physical well-being as well as minimize exacerbation of health-related issues.

As we come to the end of the month the issue if stress does not just vanish. Here are some things to think about and pursue for a diminished stress level.

What does stress mean to you?

We all experience stress – yet we may experience it in very different ways. Because of this, there is no single definition for stress, but the most common explanation is a physical, mental, or emotional strain or tension.

Stress is a reaction to a situation where a person feels anxious or threatened. Learning healthy ways to cope and getting the proper care and support can help reduce stressful feelings and symptoms.

Common reactions to a stressful event can include:

  • Disbelief, shock and numbness
  • Feeling sad, frustrated and helpless
  • Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
  • Headaches, back pains and stomach problems
  • Smoking or the use of alcohol or drugs

Affecting more than just your mind

Long-term stress can prove to be more than just a mental issue. From headaches to stomach disorders to depression – even very serious issues like stroke and heart disease can come as a result of stress.

When you are placed in a stressful situation, specific stress hormones rush into your bloodstream leading to an increase in heart rate, blood pressure and glucose levels. This is helpful in emergency situations, but having this “rush” for extended periods of time can be dangerous and make you susceptible to the issues mentioned previously.

Learn to overcome issues you cannot change

Sometimes the stress in our lives is not something we have the power to change. Try to:

Recognize when you don’t have control, and let it go.

Avoid getting anxious about situations that you cannot change.

Take control of your reactions and focus your mind on something that makes you feel calm and in control.

Develop a vision for healthy living, wellness, and personal growth, and set realistic goals to help you realize your vision.

Healthy ways for coping with your stress

Here are some basic ideas to help you cope with stress:

Take care of yourself – eat healthy, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, give yourself a break if you feel stressed.

Share your problems and how you are feeling and coping with a family member, friend, doctor, pastor or counselor.

Avoid drugs and alcohol. These can create additional problems and increase the stress you are already feeling.

Recognize when you need more help – know when to talk to a psychologist, social worker or counselor if things continue.

Potentially the most valuable takeaway here is knowing how to talk to others about your stress. This goes both ways, as you need to know how to discuss your problems with others as well as talk to anyone that comes to you with their issues.

Thanks to the American Institute of Stress for much of the content provided as well as the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Additional Information/Resources

Mental Health America (MHA) provides some tips on how to reduce your stress by utilizing a Stress Screener. Access the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website and familiarize yourself with strategies for stress management.



By Mark A. Mahoney, Ph.D. has been a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist for over 35 years and completed graduate studies in Nutrition & Public Health at Columbia University. He can be reached at [email protected].