April is Stress Awareness Month
Stress is a normal reaction, both physiologically and psychologically, to the daily demands of life. In fact, small amounts of good stress are linked to increased
productivity and performance. When our brain perceives a threat, it tells the body to release “fight-or-flight” hormones that increase heart rate, raise blood pressure, increase our breathing, and tighten our muscles, preparing us for action. When the threat has passed, our bodies are meant to return to a normal state. But with the non-stop difficulties and busyness of life, we remain on high alert with stress hormones racing through our bodies. The result can mean health complications, strained relationships and decreased outlook on life.
Too much stress for too long can be bad for your physical health, and is linked to increased risk of heart disease, obesity, memory loss, depression, and insomnia. Psychologically, stress can cause mood swings, irritability, resentment and low self-esteem. Each person handles stress differently and symptoms may vary. It’s important to understand how to manage stress in life.
Our busy lives have many demands. In a typical day, our jobs, family, friends and even pets ask a lot of us, and our emotional reserves can only go so far until we feel drained and stressed. Stress is a part of life, but we can choose how we react and respond when we find ourselves in difficult situations. Stress management techniques are a great way to replenish our emotional resources, practice self-care, and be our best selves to those we interact with each day.
7 Stress Management Techniques
- Be mindful – Slow down and focus on one behavior or task at a time. Pay attention to what is going on around you. As our minds bounce from task to task, it is easy find ourselves on autopilot.
- Laugh – In the short term,laughter can help reduce some of the physical symptoms of stress by stimulating circulation and helping muscles relax. Laughter has fantastic long-term effects including pain relief, and improved mood and immune system function.
- Move – All forms of exercise help to dissipate stress hormones and release feel-good endorphins. Yoga specifically uses both physical and mental focus to help calm both the body and mind.
- Breathe – Practicing deep breathing can help counter the effects of stress by slowing heart rate and lowering blood pressure. Breathe from the belly rather than the chest, and try to breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth.
Check out this breathing activity. Breathe in for as long as it takes for the shape to expand, and breathe out for as long as it takes for the shape to contract. Deep breathing can help counter the effects of stress by slowing heart rate and lowering blood pressure.
- Tunes – Play, sing, or listen to music. Soothing music specifically has been shown to lower blood pressure, heart rate, and anxiety as well as relax muscles and decrease stress hormones.
- Journal – Putting things on paper can put them into perspective, as well as help us remember the good things and celebrate daily victories.
- Conversation – Friends and family can help support us throughout the ups and downs of life, as well as provide a distraction. It’s important to share what’s going on in our lives (preferably face to face!).
Re-posted with permission from “In Good Health“, PHP’s monthly Health & Wellness newsletter.
If you or someone you know is experiencing signs of distress, please reach out to a mental health professional or get confidential, free support and text LOOKUP to 494949 or chat online here.
If you live in Indiana and need help finding a behavioral health provider, visit Find Help or call (800) 284-8439.
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