Believe it or not, the average stress level of Americans has dropped since 2007, according to the American Psychological Association (APA).
But, we understand if you don’t exactly feel that way.
Even though things have improved, the APA’s most recent Stress in America™ survey indicates that Americans are still living with stress levels higher than what’s considered healthy. And nearly one-quarter of respondents say they aren’t doing enough to manage it.
It’s a good thing, then, that Stress Awareness Month is here. Held every April since 1992 and sponsored by the nonprofit Health Resource Network, Stress Awareness Month is a “national, cooperative effort to inform people about the dangers of stress, successful coping strategies and harmful misconceptions about stress that are prevalent in our society.”
Stress management doesn’t just help you feel calmer and more focused. It’s important to your overall health. Constant exposure to stress can trigger your brain’s alarm system to remain in alert mode, flooding your system with the hormones you need to take flight or fight when facing danger, according to the Mayo Clinic. This causes more stress in and of itself. And, all that stress can cause problems with your health, your relationships and your overall quality of life.
So, reducing your stress is well worth your while, and, if you don’t know where to start, we’re here to help. These tips from the Mayo Clinic and WebMD will get you headed in the right direction:
- Make stress management a goal — and make a commitment to that goal. Simply saying, “I want to reduce stress” isn’t enough. You’ve got to learn to identify problems and implement solutions, which takes work.
- Identify your triggers. What situations cause you to experience stress? Work? Relationships? Thinking about money? Don’t overlook everyday tasks, such as commuting, or even positive events, such as starting a new job.
- Consider strategies to deal with those specific triggers. For example, creating a budget plan or talking to a financial adviser could help ease your worries about finances. Changing your hours at work could potentially improve your commute.
- Practice relaxation techniques and live a healthy lifestyle. Here are just a few tools that people use to help alleviate stress: deep breathing, yoga or tai chi; meditation and guided imagery — imagining yourself in a place of relaxation; writing or talking to someone about your feelings; exercise (even simple stretching or housework) and outdoor recreation; and art and other creative projects
- Ask for help. Many people you know have probably experienced similar stresses to your own. Find out how they have solved problems and relieved stress. And, if they are still having trouble, you can work on managing issues together.
April is a great time to try to reduce stress and live a healthier life. So, what are you waiting for? At the end of the month, see how you feel. Keep doing the things that worked for you; stop doing the things that didn’t.
Remember, when you make stress management a bigger part of your life, you leave less room for the stress itself.