April is Stress Awareness Month. Stress Awareness Month has been held every April since 1992 to raise awareness of the causes and cures for our modern-day stress epidemic. It is the time when we have an opportunity for an open conversation on the impact of stress and dedicate time to removing the guilt, shame, and stigma around mental health.
It is important to talk about stress, and its effects on mental and emotional health with friends, family, colleagues, and professionals. The more we talk about mental health issues, the more understanding and acceptance we see in our community.
So, let’s talk about stress….
What is stress?
Stress is your body’s natural response to meet a perceived challenge or threat. Your body’s “natural response” to stressors include physical changes that help to improve vision, hearing, and movement. Essentially, your body readies itself to react quickly and effectively. After the stressor is eliminated, your body returns to a normal state of alertness—until the next stressor arises.
Acute vs. chronic stress: Stress can be either acute or chronic. Acute stress usually occurs in response to a short-term stressor, like an argument with your spouse. Acute stress can be distressing, but it passes quickly and typically responds well to coping techniques. Chronic stress occurs when stressors don’t let up. Chronic stress can damage both mental and physical health. Being chronically stressed may leave you feeling fatigued, sap your ability to concentrate and cause headaches and digestive difficulties.
What causes stress?
Stressors can vary, and although they can be described as good or bad, the impact of stressors often depends on your perception of potential threat. Here are three general types of stressor:
- Routine stress, related to the pressures of work, family and other daily responsibilities
- Stress brought about by a change, such as losing a job, moving homes or illness
- Traumatic stress, experienced in an event in which serious harm or danger was possible
What are symptoms of stress?
Keep in mind that we all experience stress differently, and ultimately, a doctor, a therapist, or a counselor can help you to begin to explore if stress is indeed the cause of your symptoms, which may include:
- Physical: tight muscles, cold or sweaty hands, headaches, neck tension, tense shoulders, sleep disturbance, stomach distress, more colds and infections, fatigue, rapid breathing, pounding heart, trembling, dry mouth, sore or tired eyes, heart or chest pain, butterflies in stomach
- Emotional: anxiety, irritability, fear, moodiness, embarrassment, jumpy, depression, hostile/angry, frustrated
- Behavioral: stuttering or other speaking difficulties, crying, acting impulsively, nervous laughter, “snapping” at others, being prone to more accidents, increased or decreased appetite
- Thought-Based: self-criticism, difficulty concentrating and making decisions, forgetfulness, preoccupation with the future (“what if…”), repetitive thoughts, fear of failure
Resources to help you manage stress
- Tips for managing a high stress relationship
- How to reduce work stress
- Try these foods that can reduce stress and anxiety
- Overwhelmed? Try these simple techniques for stopping the spin cycle
- For more, download our guide to understanding and managing stress and anxiety.
It’s important to know that the goal is not to avoid stress completely, but rather to better understand stress, recognize the signs and symptoms, know your triggers, and proactively manage your stress when it comes up.
Lastly, remember that if the steps you’ve taken to manage stress on your own aren’t working, it may be time to share with a mental health professional to pinpoint specific events that trigger you and help you create an action plan to change them.
Remember that everyone needs a little help sometimes. Whether for yourself, for your child, or for your relationship, there are seasons where it’s best to seek outside help. We are here for you. We help people like you.
If you are ready to get help, let’s do this, together. Don’t hesitate to reach out: