April is Stress Awareness Month. We’ve all experienced stress at one time or another – it’s a natural, normal response to life’s demanding situations. What is stressful to one person may not bother another in the least, and stress can manifest itself in many ways. Stress impacts individuals differently. Effects of stress vary in intensity and can be physical, physiological, or psychological.
Stress can cause of a number of issues, including the following:
- Anxiety and/or depression
- Health problems, frequent or chronic illnesses, high blood pressure, or headaches
- Inability to focus or concentrate
- Irritability, anger, or mood swings
- Insomnia or changes in sleep patterns
- Appetite changes
Since 1992, health care professionals and health promotion experts across the country have joined forces during the month of April to increase public awareness about the topics of stress and stress management. During Stress Awareness Month, additional attention is given to available resources and materials for reducing and managing stress.
Experts agree that it’s important to understand what causes you stress so that you are effectively able to manage it. Recognizing which people, places, or situations trigger higher stress levels is critical. Once you’ve identified which situations cause you to respond in a way that can be identified as stress, you’re able to employ activities and routines to decrease or eliminate the negative effects of the event.
For example, if you know that public speaking causes stress, you can take extra steps to prepare for a public speaking event, such as practicing in front of a small audience. Or you could meditate just before the event begins.
Not all stress is bad, and it’s important to know the difference between negative stress and positive stress. There can be benefits to experiencing stress, including bursts of energy, increased productivity, and motivation to complete projects or work toward goals.
In addition, it’s important to celebrate your successes with stress management. Perhaps you’ve started a new routine of daily meditation, yoga or other exercise, or other relaxation techniques to help decrease your stress levels. It’s also critical to remember not to be too hard on yourself. Setting realistic goals and having realistic expectations is also an important part of stress management.
We will all have certain levels of stress in our lives. Take some time during Stress Awareness Month to examine the role that stress plays in your life and what steps you can take to better manage it.