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Time to chill and cope with your stress

04/01/21

April is Stress Awareness Month and It has been recognized every April since 1992. Nevertheless, after a year of living with COVID-19 and all its fear and uncertainty, this year it is very important to our mental health. Living a healthy lifestyle means learning to cope with our stress.

Each of us experience stress in a number of different ways. Therefore, there is no single definition for stress which would apply to everyone.

The most common definition of stress is a “physical, mental, or emotional strain or tension.” In fact, 77 percent of Americans report that they experience physical symptoms as the result of stress. Additionally, 33 percent feel they are living with extreme stress and 48 percent blame stress for negatively impacting their personal and professional lives.

Know how to talk to others about your stress. Then be a good listener for those who come to discuss their problems with you.

Here are some additional tips to help you manage the stress in your life:

  • Learn to accept problems you cannot change. Recognize when you don’t have control, and let it go. Take control of your reactions and focus on something that calms you and helps you feel more in control. Make a list of situations that could cause potential stress and then figure out which situations you can avoid or improve to manage the outcome.
  • Eat healthy! Eating a diet full of fresh, whole foods helps the body combat stress naturally. It is also wise to avoid stimulants like caffeine, alcohol and nicotine that can amplify stress, interfere with sleep and worsen the effects stress has on the body.
  • Exercise regularly. Getting the recommended amount of exercise lowers blood pressure and provides a healthy outlet to relieve stress. Rhythmic exercise such as walking, jogging and swimming have proven to be especially effective. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate activity, five days a week.
  • Get plenty of sleep. Not getting a proper amount of sleep makes it difficult to deal with stressful situations and can increase anxiety and depression. To establish a healthy sleeping routine, make sure to turn off all electronics at least 30 minutes prior to going to bed and try to establish a calming nighttime ritual, such as reading or meditating. This ritual will signal your mind to relax and prepare for a restful night’s sleep.
  • Learn how to relax. Relaxing while stressed is no easy task. If you are looking for a good way to get started, try the 4-7-8 deep breathing technique. Inhale for four seconds, hold the breath for seven seconds, exhale for eight seconds. Continue for as long as you need to feel relaxed.
  • Put your feelings on paper. Have thoughts running through your head on repeat? Try writing them out. Getting the thoughts out of your mind and onto paper will signal your brain that the thought is safe, and it no longer needs to hold onto it.
  • Do something you enjoy. Learning new skills and taking the time to do something you love creates an outlet to relieve stress. Just make sure it’s something you enjoy doing.
  • Smile. It might feel silly, but simply smiling can help improve your mood. Laughing is also a great way to beat stress and is clinically proven to be good for your health.
  • Discuss your problems with a parent, friend or another trusted source. Sometimes talking through a problem is all you need to work through a stressful situation. Confiding in a trusted friend or family member can go a long way in combating stress.
  • Recognize when you need more help – know when to talk to a psychologist, social worker or counselor if things continue. A licensed professional can provide helpful tools to help you positively process through stressful scenarios.

As always, if you are feeling stressed and you don’t know where to turn for help, start with your Family Medicine provider. They can give you the initial guidance toward finding a healthy solution. If necessary, they can also refer you on to professional counselors who can help you uncover and remove stressful situations in your life. If you do not have a regular Family Medicine provider, contact CCMH Medical Clinic – Main Campus at 712-265-2700.