Stress Awareness Month focuses on mental, physical, and emotional health and wellbeing. This year’s theme focuses on the importance of community. During the last two years, the pandemic impacted typical social interactions and left millions struggling with losing loved ones who died from COVID-19.
The pandemic had a detrimental effect on the nation’s mental health and sense of community. People were kept in one place for a long time due to travel restrictions, large gatherings were canceled, social lives were disrupted, and they worked from home.
As a result, one of the most significant challenges people struggled with was the lack of support, which can cause isolation and loneliness and lower a person’s sense of wellbeing. Isolation significantly impacts mental health and could lead to mental illness.
Although pandemic-related restrictions were mainly lifted, people need support, now more than ever, to adjust to a new way of living.
Learning about stressors and how to manage them, and how to help those struggling to cope with their stress is why Stress Awareness Month has been recognized every April since 1992, according to National Today.
What Does Stress Mean?
There is no single definition for stress, but mental health experts agree that it is a physical or emotional reaction. These can be in response to a thought, demand, challenge, or event that causes an individual to feel angry, frustrated, or nervous, reports Pam Meyer, the Wellness Director, BLC-Wahpeton.
Common reactions to stressful events include:
- Sadness, frustration, and helplessness.
- Shock, disbelief, and numbness.
- Back pains, headaches, and stomach problems.
- Difficulty concentrating and making decisions.
- Use of drugs or alcohol.
Releasing hormones is the body’s reaction to stress, which increases a person’s brain activity, elevates their pulse, and causes muscles to tense. In the short term, this is good because it is the body’s way of protecting itself. But, in the long term, stress may lead to heart disease and stroke, the Stress Management Society.
Stress Awareness and Stressors
If the stressor is not something that an individual can change, they can try one of these techniques:
- Let go of things or matters that cannot be personally controlled.
- Becoming anxious will not change the situation.
- Focus on keeping calm and in control.
- Develop a vision for wellness, healthy living, and personal growth.
Healthy ways for coping with stress:
- Eating healthy, regular exercise, and enough sleep.
- Share personal problems with a family member, a counselor, or a doctor.
- Avoid alcohol or drugs as this will create more problems.
- Seek professional help from a social worker or psychologist to discuss personal issues.
Stress Reduction Techniques
Mental health clinicians suggest trying these simple practices to help reduce the negative impact of stress:
- Laugh more. A study showed that laughter reduces stress and gives people a relaxed and improved mood. Laughter yoga might be worth checking out.
- Breathing exercises. Whether counting or breathing slowly, using visualization techniques is the easiest way to keep stress at bay.
- Reduce stress triggers. Stress triggers can be anything from being late, procrastination, a messy house, or terrible traffic. Resolve these by hiring help or practicing time management.
- Exercise. Good old-fashioned exercise is one of the best ways to minimize stress, improve sleep, increase endorphins, and foster relaxation.
Stress Awareness facilitators urge everyone to reach out to trusted friends and family or seek professional help. Encourage others and be there to share personal experiences with those feeling overwhelmed. It might just help someone else.
Written by Janet Grace Ortigas
Edited by Cathy Milne-Ware
National Today: Day of the Year: Stress Awareness Month
The American Institute of Stress: April is Stress Awareness Month: by Pam Meyer
Stress Management Society: Stress Awareness Month 2022
Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Niko Dimo’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image Courtesy of Eric’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License