April is recognized as National Stress Awareness Month to bring attention to the negative impact of stress. Managing stress is an essential component of a healthy lifestyle. Knowing how to manage stress can improve mental and physical well-being as well as minimize health-related issues. Stress is unavoidable. Now more than ever, it's important to understand stress and how we can manage it.
While stress can be beneficial, too much of it can be harmful. When the body senses a threat (or stressor), it goes on high alert, and once the threat passes, the body quickly recovers. At least that's the way it's supposed to work. Stressors can include health matters, work, money, family issues, racism or gender inequality, and regular daily hassles. With unrelenting or too many stressors, your body might be on a constant state of high alert, leading to poor concentration, bad moods, professional burnout, and mental and physical health problems. When stress becomes chronic, the body cannot return to normal functioning. Chronic stress can be linked with health conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, depression and anxiety.
It's critical to recognize what stress and anxiety look like. Here are several tips to help recognize stressors that may be affecting your health, and ways to help you build resilience:
- Recognize and counter signs of stress. Your body sends signals that say "I'm stressed out!" These can include difficulty concentrating, headaches, cold hands, tight muscles, a nervous stomach, clenched teeth, feeling on edge, fidgety, irritable or withdrawn. Knowing how your body communicates can help you deal with stressful moments. Learn to not only recognize when you are experiencing stress, but also to take action to counter their effects. For example, deep breathing, stretching, going for a walk, writing down your thoughts and taking quiet time to focus. All of these activities can help induce relaxation and reduce tension.
- Take time for yourself. Make taking care of yourself a daily routine. It's not selfish or self-indulgent — and it might require saying "no" to requests or prioritizing yourself along with your responsibilities. Start with small changes in your routine to help build resilience to stressful circumstances. Work in time to exercise, eat healthy foods, participate in relaxing activities and sleep. In fact, including a regimen of exercise, which for some may include yoga or meditation, can be very important when feeling stressed. Also, take time to notice the "good minutes" in each day or to do something that you enjoy, such as reading a book or listening to music, which can be a way to shift your attention and focus on the positive rather than the negative.
- Try new routines. From scheduling bath and bedtimes to blocking off time to plan and prioritize tasks, additional structure can provide a daily framework that allows you to attune to your body's signals. Then, you can take steps to potentially manage stress earlier than you once did.
- Stay connected and make new friends. Stay in touch with family, friends and groups in your life — technology makes this easier than ever. Having or being a person to talk with can be reassuring and calming. Using video features can enhance the connection in telecommunication or online communications for some people.
- See problems through a different lens. Experts call changing the way we think about and respond to stress "reframing." View sitting in traffic or around the house as an opportunity to enjoy music, podcasts or pleasant views. Reduce anger in response to rude or aggressive behavior by imagining what might be happening in that person's life. Keeping situations in perspective is an important way to boost stress resilience. If you practice reframing, you will get better at it over time.
- Seek help with problems. Many people experience the same day-to-day strains related to caregiving, relationships, health, work and money. Look to friends and family, as appropriate, or other trusted individuals or resources for tips and information.
- Talk to a health professional if stress is affecting your well-being, you feel you cannot manage the stress you're experiencing, or stress has caused you to engage in or increase substance use. Seek appropriate care if stress is harming your relationships or ability to work. If you have suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Lifeline chat is a service available to everyone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Summit Medical Group also offers in-house mental therapy and teletherapy
Through Summit's Behavioral Health Therapy services, patients can:
- Learn techniques or behaviors for relieving or coping with feelings of anger, depression, anxiety, panic or suicide
- Obtain coping skills and support for major life changes such as divorce, grief, or job loss
- Gain a stronger sense of self-acceptance and improved self-esteem
- Identify and learn how to change self-defeating behaviors and habits
- Improve personal communication techniques and interpersonal skills
- Improve problem-solving abilities and conflict resolution skills
- Manage stress more effectively
If you or a member of your family are experiencing social, emotional, or behavioral problems, call your Summit provider's office today and see if therapy is right for you.