Since 1992, the month of April has been recognized as Stress Awareness Month. The goal of Stress Awareness Month is to increase public awareness about the causes of stress as well as ways it can be managed and reduced.
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), most Americans suffer from at least moderate to high stress, with 44% reporting that their stress levels have increased over the past five years. It may be even more given the recent COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, nearly half of U.S. adults (49%) say that stress has negatively affected their behavior.
But the problem isn’t just in America. Stress is also a global concern with more than one-third of people around the world feeling stressed, worried, or angry. Our World of Data reports that in 2017, 284 million people worldwide had an anxiety disorder.
Negative stress (not eustress, the healthy kind) is harmful to the body when it becomes chronic. Experiencing prolonged stress has significant mental, emotional, and physical health impacts:
On Your Body:
- Increased blood pressure and/or risk for heart attack
- Increased production of the hormone cortisol
- Muscle tension and/or pain
- Headaches and/or stomach upset
- Fatigue and/or sleep problems
- Changes in sex drive
On Your Mood:
- Anxiety, sadness, and/or depression
- Loss of focus, concentration, and/or motivation
- Feelings of restlessness
- Anger and irritability
- Feeling burdened and overwhelmed
On Your Behavior:
- Overeating or undereating
- Less exercise/decreased physical activity
- Angry or agitated outbursts
- Substance abuse (drugs, alcohol) and/or tobacco abuse
- Social withdrawal
Managing and Reducing Stress
This Stress Awareness Month, arm yourself with the knowledge and tools to not just identify stress but also to combat it. Taking proactive steps to manage your stress can make you happier and healthier. It can also help you thrive and be more productive at your job, at home, and in other important areas of your life.
- Get regular physical activity to release endorphins and relieve muscle tension.
- Practice relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, massage, or deep breathing.
- Spend time with your loved ones and communicate when you are feeling stressed.
- Set aside time for hobbies such as reading, art, building, or listening to music.
- Don’t overcommit yourself and fill up your schedule with responsibilities.
- Prioritize sleep and treat it as a necessity that you can’t give up on.
- Eat a healthy, balanced, and nourishing diet to support your health and wellbeing.
Finally, play a part in recognizing Stress Awareness Month by talking openly about stress to reduce the stigma that is often associated with it. You can also share your coping mechanisms with others to help them during times of stress.