Spring is here. Along with warming weather, blooming flowers and chirping birds, Spring also signals National Stress Awareness Month, which is observed every April.
Why is Stress Awareness Month so important? For a number of reasons, according to Nicholas G. Hanson, MD, of Castleview Hospital.
"Stress can take its toll on our health in many ways. It can cause depression or anxiety, lead to heart disease, and cause high blood pressure and obesity, among other things," saidDr. Hanson. "While some level of stress in our lives is inevitable and can even be positive, it's important for people to learn how to manage their stress for their physical and mental health and well being."
What is stress? According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), stress is the body's response to any demand or change. Most people can identify with stress caused by negative situations such as the loss of a loved one, an accident, a difficult relationship or interaction, or trouble at work. But stress can also result from positive situations, like getting married, having a baby or getting a new job. Stress can be either long-term or short-term, and can present itself in many ways.
Dr. Hanson emphasizes the importance of identifying "stressors" in your life - the events or situations that cause you stress - and recognizing how your body responds to those situations.
The following are 10 suggestions about how to improve your stress levels:
1. Be organized. Prioritize your to-do list and plan your time, being realistic about how long tasks will take.
2. Be flexible. While planning is good and can help prevent stress, it also is important to be prepared to change your plans and respond to situations as needed.
3. If you know a stressful event is on the horizon, be prepared. This could mean thinking through responses for an interview or getting a good night sleep before a long day at work.
4. Make it a habit to take a moment to breathe deeply and relax. Stretch your muscles, too. Doing these things can relax your body and your mind.
5. Exercise. Incorporating physical activity into your daily habits can help improve your mood and prevent stress.
6. Watch what you eat. Give your body plenty of energy by eating vegetables, fruits, and protein.
7. Avoid drinking alcohol excessively, and do not drink alcohol as a means to manage your stress.
8. Do something for yourself. Read a good book, listen to music, make plans with friends, or enjoy a good laugh.
9. Talk to people. Friends, families or co-workers may be able to help. In addition, verbalizing your stress can help relieve it.
10. Ask for help. If you feel out of control, depressed or too overwhelmed to cope, ask your doctor for help. There are medical professionals who can help you navigate and control your stress.
Recognize these Signs of Stress:
Not eating or eating too much;
Feeling like you have no control;
Needing to have too much control;
Lack of energy;
Lack of focus;
Trouble getting things done;
General aches and pains.