April is Stress Awareness Month
Everyone has stress. Sometimes we have short-term stress, the kind that hits us when we are running late or have to speak in front of a group. Even everyday events, such as planning a meal or making time for errands, can be stressful This kind of stress can make us feel worried or anxious. Other times, we face long-term stress, such as racial discrimination, a life-threatening illness, or divorce. These stressful events affect your health on many levels. Long-term stress is real and can increase your risk for some health problems, like depression or chronic health challenges.
Both short- and long-term stress can have effects on your body. Research is starting to show the serious effects of stress on our bodies. Stress triggers changes in our bodies and makes us more likely to get sick or worsen problems we already have. It can also play a part in problems such as: trouble sleeping, headaches, stomach problems, irritability, lack of energy or concentration, weight gain or loss, sadness, tension, skin problems (like hives), heart problems, high blood pressure, diabetes, reduced sexual desire, difficulty getting pregnant and a higher risk of asthma and arthritic flare-ups.
Managing stress is essential to our overall wellness. Stress can be reduced through self-care treatments such as massages, acupuncture or a pedicure. Life style changes and consistent practices to reduce the impact of stress are also important. Incorporating exercise, meditation and healthy sleep hygiene into your daily routine is imperative for reducing the impact of long term stress. Gratitude and happiness have been linked to better physical and mental health. Getting into the habit of a daily gratitude list or happiness journal can significantly reduce stress and improve your relationships with others and yourself.
Finding balance in work and life responsibilities is important as well. Unplugging from social media, news and electronics can also reduce stress; taking time to do this each day will have a notable impact on your stress level. Finally, laughter has been found to be one of the best stress reducers, and it is free and always available!
If stress is impacting your relationships and ability to function day to day it may be appropriate for you to discuss your concerns with your primary care provider or a mental health professional.