Stress is a part of being a human. As nobody is immune to it, it’s important to arm ourselves with knowledge to prevent it from damaging our health and wellbeing.
Stress can be debilitating, and it can cause or aggravate health issues. It is so deeply embodied within the human experience that we don’t always notice when it takes control of us. For this reason, April has been established as Stress Awareness Month.
- Stress Awareness Month
The stress mechanism is best described by the term “flight-or-flight response” which was coined by the American physiologist Walter Bradford Cannon in the early 20th century. In 1936, a Viennese physician Hans Selye began studying stress at McGill University in Montreal. In the 1950s, two American cardiologists developed a theory of Type A personalities for whom stress is often a way of life and consequently, death.
For this reason, an organization dedicated to workplace and personal stress management was founded in 1974. It rebranded itself as the International Stress and Tension Control Society in 1981 and finally as the International Stress Management Association in 1989.
Stress Awareness Month has been an ongoing campaign of awareness and education since 1992. According to its definition, it 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.”
To this day and perhaps more than ever, we are all feeling it and it is going strong. So, it is more important than ever to learn strategies to cope with it effectively.
2. The Effects of Stress
The stress hormones are the same ones that trigger our body’s “fight or flight” response which gets your heart to pump faster, shortens your breath and tenses your muscles to get you ready to run away from danger. This response was designed to protect us in an emergency by helping us react quickly.
Although stress can sometimes help as it motivates people to perform and might even be life-saving in some situations, being under chronic stress can put our health at serious risk.
People who are under chronic stress are more susceptible to a variety of ailments, from headaches and insomnia to high blood pressure and heart disease.
Stress hormones also weaken your immune system and reduce your body’s response to foreign invaders. Fluctuating hormones can also mess up your menstrual cycle and take a toll on your libido.
Chronic stress wears us down emotionally and can lead to depression. It also increases the production of stomach acid and gets your liver to produce extra blood sugar (glucose) to give you a boost of energy, which can lead to many digestive disturbances such as heart burn, ulcer and type II diabetes.
Chronic stress is not a fun ride and a recent survey found that about two-thirds of U.S. workers report engaging in behavior such as drinking or crying in an attempt to deal with stress, creating another set of problems.
3. Tips To Relieve Stress
A survey by the American Psychological Association found that the five factors most often cited as a source of stress were money, work, family, economic outlook and relationships.
So, now that we know the stressors, let’s find ways to amortize them.
The best way to avoid or minimize money-related anxiety is having money saved up so you can sleep peacefully at night. If you live salary to salary, this can seem impossible when in fact, it isn’t hard at all. Even small action such as adopting energy conservation practices can lower your Duquesne bill and we all know utilities eat up a big chunk of our monthly budget. Turn off lights when you don’t need them or better yet, find interesting things to do in the dark, like meditating.
Make sure physical activity is on your daily schedule
Any form of exercise acts as a stress reliever. Take a walk, do yoga or tai chi, or just dance it away. Find an exercise routine you enjoy and let endorphins kick in.
Try herbal supplements
Nature has the cure for everything. Studies showed that a single dose of lemon balm increases calmness and alertness. Ashwagandha helps to lower levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, in the body. Drink a cup of Valerian root tea before bed as your sleep quality will be enhanced by its antioxidant, neuroprotective, antispasmodic and anxiety reducing effects.
Unplug from the noise and connect with nature
Studies show that being in nature reduces anger, fear, and stress and increases pleasant feelings. It also reduced blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones. This is the rational behind the claim that ‘people with plants tend to live longer’.
Learn how to say ‘no’
In order to manage stress, you need to take control of your life and that means being selective about what you add to your load. Stress is often the result of our personal choice to take on more than we can handle.
Discover the magic of aromatherapy
Something as simple as inhaling an essential oil can change your mood within minutes. Aromatherapy is a potent tool that can do much more than just help us combat stress as it can also protect our health and wellbeing. For example, lavender oil is praised for its calming and anti-inflammatory effects, bergamot is known for helping us get rid of negative emotions and fatigue whereas lemon oil promotes relaxation and relieves nausea. As previously stated, nature has a cure for everything.
Pet your pet
Petting a dog or cat increases the production of “feel good” neurotransmitters in the brain that lower production of stress hormones and increase feelings of happiness.
TakeawayStress Awareness Month is a great reminder that we need to pay attention to our health as this is our greatest asset. Allowing yourself to be under chronic stress equals to opening the Pandora’s box – nothing good can come of it. Fortunately, there are many things we can to relieve stress so let’s use this month to create some healthy stress management habits !