Stress Awareness Month | 10 Tips for Managing Stress
April is Stress Awareness Month – and this unprecedented time is causing many more stress than ever. Between balancing working (whether at a workplace or from home) and homeschooling or the financial stress of businesses being shut down and the fear of yourself or a family member becoming ill, many of us are facing stress like we never have before. It’s easy to allow your health and wellness to be pushed to the back burner at a time like this, but your physical, mental & emotional well-being are more important than ever.
Recognizing Signs of Stress
Stress is your body’s way of responding to any kind of demand or threat — and stress sure can be sneaky. We don’t always recognize the types of effects it can have on our body.
- Cognitive: memory problems, inability to concentrate, poor judgment, seeing only the negative, anxious or racing thoughts, constant worrying
- Emotional: depression, anxiety and agitation, moodiness, irritability, anger, feeling overwhelmed, loneliness
- Behavioral: eating or sleeping more or less, withdrawing from others, nervous habits, neglecting responsibilities
- Physical: aches and pains, nausea, dizziness, diarrhea or constipation
10 Tips for Managing Stress
Most of us have experienced at least one of these effects of stress in the last few weeks — which is okay because it’s a normal body reaction. What is important is being able to recognize the stress and then find a way to manage it.
- Change your inner monologue. Begin and end each day by saying a positive self-statement for 10 days (“I can do this, I am enough”). No matter what happens throughout the day, begin and end with positivity.
- Focus on your breathing. Close your eyes. Place one hand on your belly and one hand on your chest. Take a big, deep breath in through your nose and feel your belly rise. Exhale slowly and feel your belly lower. Try to focus only on your breath moving in and out of your lungs. Repeat 3-4 times.
- Practice mindfulness. Yoga, mindful walks, mindful imagery (picturing yourself in your favorite place and thinking of all the things you enjoy about it such as smells, feelings, sights, tastes) can all help manage stress.
- Learn to relax. Find time to unwind and engage in activities you find joy in such as reading a book, listening to music, or calling a friend.
- Get moving. Physical activity is so important to keep yourself healthy and it’s a great stress reliever! Ideas for upping your activity level include taking an outdoor walk or run, trying a free workout from area fitness centers like Elevate Fitness & Wellness and Innergy Fitness or using a free online tool.
- Connect to others (from a safe distance, of course). Call a friend, write a letter or card and send it in the mail, set up a group video chat with your family, talk to a coworker. The simple act of talking with another human can trigger hormones that relieve stress when you’re feeling agitated or insecure.
- Engage one or more of your senses — sight, sound, taste, smell, touch, or movement. The key is to find the sensory input that works for you. Does listening to an uplifting song make you feel calm? Or smelling ground coffee? Or maybe petting an animal works quickly to make you feel centered? Everyone responds differently so experiment to find what works for you.
- Give back. Those who find ways to support others during difficult times often find that it helps them manage their own stress.
- Eat a healthy diet. The food you eat can improve or worsen your mood and affect your ability to cope with life’s stressors. For a healthy snack, try to pair together a carbohydrate and protein food at the same time to help you avoid a quick spike and drop in your blood sugar and help you stay full longer. A few ideas include:
- 1 oz low-fat Swiss cheese & 1 cup strawberries
- 2 T hummus & 6 Triscuit Thin Crisp Crackers
- 1/2 T peanut butter & 1 cup apple slices
- 1/2 banana & 10 pistachios
- Know that stress isn’t all bad. We often hear about the negative effects of stress, but acute stress can also be motivational, help boost cognitive function and immunity and can even help strengthen mental health.
If you find you are struggling, reach out to your primary care provider to discuss your concerns. They can help you find additional resources to help you manage stress and cope with your emotions.