Stress Awareness Month
Stress manifests in numerous ways, and it has the potential to impact many aspects of your health and well-being. According to one American Psychological Association Study, about 80% of Americans experience at least one symptom of stress on a monthly basis, Many people experience it much more frequently than that.
While stress can impact your mental and emotional health, it can also take a toll on you physically and have lasting effects on your cardiovascular health. Even seemingly minor stress has the capacity to inhibit blood flow, and prolonged stress may impact how your blood clots. There is also a known link between stress levels and your risk of developing heart disease or suffering a stroke. Other physical, mental and emotional side effects associated with stress include:
- Weight gain
- Sleep problems
- Issues with memory and concentration (https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/lower-stress-how-does-stress-affect-the-body)
Sometimes, stress develops because you face a number of factors that, together, have you feeling the pressure. In other cases, stress develops in response to a single traumatic incident or event, such as a divorce, an assault or the loss of a job.
Common Reactions to Stressful & Traumatic Events
Many people who experience stress following a traumatic event find that they do one or more of the following in the aftermath.
- Suffer headaches, backaches or other aches and pains
- Develop feelings of sadness, frustration or helplessness
- Experience feelings of numbness or disbelief
- Struggle to make decisions
- Turn to alcohol or drugs
Many of these common reactions are not healthy, and they may even compound existing stress levels. Developing healthy coping strategies for managing stress can help you reduce how much of an effect it has on your life and learn to cope better following unanticipated or traumatic events.
Healthy Coping Strategies for Stress
Avoiding stress entirely is virtually impossible, but developing healthy coping mechanisms can help you regain control over your life. When dealing with high levels of stress, consider taking one or more of the following steps.
Abstain from drugs and alcohol.
If your first inclination is to turn to booze or drugs when you’re feeling stressed, you are not alone. However, using drugs or alcohol during stressful periods often exacerbates existing emotions and may leave you feeling worse than before.
Give your body what it needs
You may experience a reduction in your appetite in response to stress, but not eating can lead to additional problems. Force yourself to eat when you’re feeling high levels of stress, and make sure you’re eating foods that help fuel your body. Make sure, too, to get enough sleep and exercise, and don’t underestimate the positive effects of simply getting outside for a walk.
Stop giving power to things that don’t serve you well
If you can identify a main source of your stress, do what you can to avoid it. For example, if a particular individual makes you feel stress and anxiety, limit the time you spend with him or her. If you tend to feel down after watching or reading the news, take a break from doing so and see if you feel better.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Try to remember that there is no shame involved in asking for help. On the contrary, recognizing that you need help – and asking for it – is indicative of strength. If your stress levels become unmanageable, consider reaching out to a therapist, school counselor or other trusted figure for support.
Try to identify any triggers that raise your stress levels, and then note the stress relief methods that prove most effective for you. By avoiding the things that add to your stress and taking steps to reduce how much stress you do feel, you can boost your mental, emotional and physical health – and reduce your risk of a heart attack or stroke at the same time.