Stress Awareness Month has been observed annually in April since 1992.
No one is immune to stress, as it is a normal part of human existence. We all feel stressed from time to time. But for many, it can be debilitating and cause health problems. Stress is unavoidable for most of us, we can learn important strategies to help prevent and manage it.
Whether it is positive stress (like planning a wedding) or negative stress (like losing a job), everyone has felt the effects at some point in their lives. Stress often shows itself in constant fatigue, headaches, and even lashing out at the people we love. In fact, a study from the American Institute of Stress revealed that 77 percent of Americans report that they experience physical symptoms as the result of stress. Also, 33 percent feel they are living with extreme stress and 48 percent blame stress for negatively impacting their personal and professional lives.
Long-term stress can be more than just a mental issue, causing ailments from headaches to stomach problems to depression. I have witnessed family members developed serious issues like stroke as a result of stress, and they are now on a permanent routine of medication. We’ve all experienced increased heart rate when placed in stressful situations. This is helpful in emergency situations, but having this “rush” for extended periods of time can be dangerous to your health.
My dad always says that a small amount stress is a good thing. It keeps you on your toes and lets you know that you care about what you’re doing. I agree with that. However, when we have too much stress, it can make us feel overwhelmed. When this happens, my anxiety goes through the roof. To counter this, I have homed in on five tactics that have helped me to keep stress in check on a daily basis.
Pen to Paper
I have a million thoughts running through my head on any given day, as most of us do. Getting those thoughts out of my mind and onto paper helps tell my brain that the thoughts are safe and it doesn’t have to hold onto them anymore. With a quick five minutes in the morning or before I go to bed at night, journaling helps to “dump” all that I’m feeling out so that I don’t have to carry it around with me.
You are your own best advocate. You know exactly what you need to bring balance back to yourself. If you are feeling overwhelmed and worn down, take a look at everything that is going on in your life and see if some things can take a backseat until you feel up to facing them. In my journal time, I make a list of situations that could cause potential stress and then figure out which ones I can avoid or change in some way to manage the outcome. A 30-minute walk during the day and a few hours away from social media does wonders for me as well.
When you’re stressed out, relaxing is probably the hardest thing to do. The key is to find what works best for you. The easier it is to do, the more likely you are to stick with it. For me, prayer and affirmations in the morning and meditation at night are great ways to help me relax. I use a few apps on my iPhone — YouVersion, Shine, Calm. They’ve become a part of daily routine, and they are the best defense against stress that comes my way during the day.
Something You Enjoy
I’ve learned to not be intimidated by picking up something new. It can be as small as playing a 15-minute game on my phone. I love cooking and listening to music at the same time. It makes me happy and is a departure from working all day. Learning new skills and taking the time to do something you love creates an outlet to relieve stress. Try a cooking class, gardening, or maybe playing an instrument; just make sure it’s something you enjoy doing.
Talk About It
Sometimes talking through a problem is all you need to combat a stressful situation. Calling up a friend or family member can go a long way in handling stress. My FaceTime calls with my two nieces are the best remedy for anything stressful going on in my life. A professional can also provide helpful tools to help you positively process through stressful situations. These days, you don’t even have to leave home, as many therapists provide virtual sessions.
It’s natural and normal to be stressed at times. With a little effort, you can develop ways to help manage stress when it becomes too much. This month, use these five tips to help keep your stress level low and your peace level high.
Use #StressAwarenessMonth to post your progress on social media, as well as to share your own hacks for managing stress.
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Archuleta is an author, poet, blogger, and host of the FearlessINK podcast. Archuleta's work centers Black women, mental health and wellness, and inspiring people to live their fullest potential.