Stress Awareness Month

Relax. It’s National Stress Awareness Month.

Whether it’s home, work, bills or family issues, virtually all of us experience stress in our lives from time to time. While there is no official, clinical definition of stress, likely the best description is, “emotional, physical or mental strain or tension.” That description applies to millions of Americans, every day.

According to the American Psychological Association, 77% of people regularly experience physical symptoms of stress, and 73% experience psychological symptoms. One-third of Americans feel that they are living with extreme stress, and nearly half say that stress has a negative impact on their personal and professional lives. The leading causes are:

  • Job pressure
  • Money
  • Health
  • Relationships
  • Poor nutrition
  • Media overload
  • Sleep deprivation

During April — National Stress Awareness Month — it’s the perfect time to learn how to recognize the symptoms of stress and discover what you can do to reduce its impact on your body, your feelings and your behavior.

The signs of stress

Stress manifests itself both physically and psychologically. The physical symptoms of stress include:

  • Headache
  • Muscle tension
  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue
  • Change in sex drive
  • Upset stomach
  • Trouble sleeping

Emotionally and psychologically, stress can create:

  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Lack of motivation
  • Irritability or anger
  • Sadness or depression
  • Lack of focus
  • An overwhelmed feeling

Steps to reduce your stress level

Even though nearly everyone feels it at times, stress is not something that you should take lightly. If you’re beginning to feel it or notice the physical, psychological or behavioral symptoms, there are ways to head it off and limit its impact on your life. Our partners at the Mayo Clinic offer the following strategies that can help to make a world of difference:

  • Exercise regularly
  • Practice relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation, yoga, tai chi
  • Get a massage
  • Socialize with friends or family
  • Make time to enjoy your hobbies
  • Take steps to maintain a healthier lifestyle and diet

Another key strategy is to take steps to reduce the stressors in your life, whether those are external or self-imposed. Does traffic cause agitation? Leave early or take longer, but less-traveled routes. Do you have too many responsibilities? It’s OK to say no to taking on yet another task. Has someone done something to offend you? Free yourself from burning negative energy by learning to forgive. Dwelling on a woulda/coulda/shoulda? Practice thought-stopping by practicing positive visualization.

The Mayo Clinic offers an array of strategies for stress relief under the four A’s: Avoid, Alter, Accept and Adapt. Click here to find tips and techniques that can work wonders for you:

And remember: if stress begins to be too much to handle, you don’t have to tackle it alone. Talk to friends and family for support, and know that St. Clair Hospital is nearby to help. Call us at 412.942.4000.