April is Stress Awareness Month and, to say the least, this last year has brought on many challenges that have increased instances of stress more than ever before. The loss of social contact, juggling work and home spaces, instances of racial injustice, increase of mental health concerns, isolation, kids and virtual or hybrid school, and the loss of normalcy in general have all contributed.
We all experience stress in different ways and choose a variety of ways to cope, but the American Institute of Stress states the most common definition is a “physical, mental, or emotional strain or tension.” The annual Stress in America study put out by the American Psychological Association reports that Covid-19, the economy, politics, and civil unrest are the top stressors.
• Women tend to experience stress more often than men.
• 33% of Americans are living with extreme stress.
• 77% of Americans say that stress impacts their physical health.
• 48% of Americans state that stress has a negative impact on their personal life.
• Three out of four doctor’s visits are for stress-related concerns.
Stress can be acute, like when you are behind on an important work deadline or you mistakenly run a red light. Our minds can extend acute stress. A recent argument may replay in your mind, keeping you up at night. Or you might keep worrying about the future. Stress also can be chronic. This is the grinding stress that wears us down over the years. It arises from serious life problems that may be fundamentally beyond our control.
We can experience stress emotionally, such as feeling overwhelmed or anxious, or physically, such as a decreased immune system or behaviorally as evidenced by restlessness or difficulty sleeping.
One of the ways to address and overcome stress is by noticing what you don’t have control over and practicing letting that go. Focusing on what you can control and doing that in small steps can help to alleviate stress and build resilience.
Other stress-relieving techniques are:
- Practicing mindfulness – breathing in and out, noticing your surroundings and where your feet are;
- Reaching out to friends whom you can trust and confiding in them about how you are really doing;
- Increasing the amount of time you spend on those things that you find enjoyment in whether that is crafts, exercise, spending time with your pet or your family;
- Listening to a guided meditation on an app such as Calm or Insight Timer;
- Walking outside in nature and noticing the trees and flowers that are blooming now;
- Setting boundaries and saying “no” to those things that don’t serve you;
- Protecting your time by not allowing work or other obligations get in the way of your down time;
- Keeping a journal;
- Writing gratitude lists on a daily basis;
- Taking a yoga or tai chi class that aim to bring breath awareness and calm to your system; and
- Finding some humor in life whether by watching a movie or funny YouTube video or just laughing with friends over a cup of coffee
Finally, try to be kind to yourself. This past year has not been easy. As you look ahead, give yourself some grace and compassion, knowing you taking steps to manage your stress. Reach out for support if you need to, the Ohio State Employee Assistance (EAP) is here for you. Contact us by calling 800-678-6265 or go online by clicking here
Image credit: istockphoto.com