April marks the start of Stress Awareness Month. The goal is to increase public awareness of both the causes and cures for our modern stress epidemic.
With the rise of social media in the last decade, it may seem like new holidays are popping up all the time (National Pizza Day, anyone?), but Stress Awareness Month has actually been held every April since 1992. That’s 27 years of Stress Awareness!
Despite this being held globally for 27 years, we still have got a long way to go.
Good mental health is something we all need, just like we all need good physical health. Luckily, here at B Squared Media, things like work-life balance and digital detoxes are encouraged, and although these things are awesome, there’s no one size fits all cure for stress.
Below, we’ll define stress and share some tips for how to keep calm all year long.
First, let’s define stress.
The American Institute of Stress notes that although people have very different ideas with respect to their definition of stress, the most common is, “physical, mental, or emotional strain or tension”.
Another popular definition is, “a condition or feeling experienced when a person perceives that demands exceed the personal and social resources the individual is able to mobilize.”
There are also multiple types of stress: Acute Stress, Chronic Stress, Distress, and Eustress.
The one you’re probably most familiar with is Chronic Stress – the cost of daily living: bills, kids, career. This is the stress we tend to ignore or push down.
Left uncontrolled this stress affects your health, your body and your immune system.
So let’s find ways to cope, instead of ignoring or pushing it down…
If you’re on your phone 24/7, it’s time to put down the machine. Social media does allow us to be, well, social, but there’s no replacement for human interaction.
Social relationships are central to our well-being and are critical to the maintenance of our mental and physical health. We’re hardwired to interact with others, especially during times of stress. When we go through a tough time alone, a lack of emotional support and friendship can increase our anxiety and hinder our coping ability.
Yes, other people can be irritating at times, and our phones have Candy Crush, Netflix, and 400 other apps! But other people are our greatest source of comfort, and an impressive amount of psychological research underscores the importance of human contact.
Plan a dinner with friends, sign up for a local class, or invite your friends over to Netflix and Chill instead of binge-watching alone.
Stress management and time management go hand in hand. When you manage your time wisely, you’ll feel more in control. This can make you feel calmer and less stressed overall.
Waiting until the last minute to complete a work project or a task at home can cause stress. Instead, try prioritizing what you need to do at work and at home so you can complete projects more timely.
Another way to manage time better and, as a result, become less stressed is to work in batches. Try to stop switching gears and changing from one task to another before projects are completed. Instead, group similar tasks and do them one after another.
At B Squared we love calendars, planners and bullet journals in order to stay organized and on track. Writing out your tasks and to-dos the old-fashioned way, and then crossing them off once complete, is one of the world’s most satisfying feelings.
The benefits of practicing gratitude are endless.
People who regularly practice gratitude by taking time to notice and reflect upon the things they’re thankful for experience more positive emotions, feel more alive, sleep better, express more compassion and kindness, and even have stronger immune systems.
You might express gratitude after receiving a promotion at work, but you can also be thankful for something as simple as a really good slice of pizza.
Research by UC Davis psychologist Robert Emmons, author of Thanks!: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier, shows that simply keeping a gratitude journal—regularly writing brief reflections on moments for which we’re thankful—can significantly increase well-being and life satisfaction.
Any type of exercise is good for stress. Exercise can decrease ‘stress hormones’ like cortisol, and increase endorphins, your body’s ‘feel-good’ chemicals, giving your mood a natural boost. (This is the chemistry behind a ‘runner’s high’.)
Physical activity itself can take your mind off of your problems and either redirect it on the activity at hand or get you into a zen-like state. Exercise can involve a change of scenery, taking you to a gym, a park, or a biking trail, but there’s also millions (literally millions) of free, at-home exercise videos available on YouTube.
Deep breathing is easy to learn (if I can do it, you can do it!). You can do it at any time, in any place. Deep breathing helps dissipate stress as it occurs. Practice the below routine when you’re not so stressed, then use it when you need it most. If you find it helpful, try repeating the exercise four to six times a day — even on good days.
1. Breathe in slowly and deeply, pushing your stomach out so that your diaphragm is put to maximal use.
2. Hold your breath briefly.
3. Exhale slowly, thinking “relax.”
4. Repeat the entire sequence five to 10 times, concentrating on breathing deeply and slowly.
Stress will be a life-long battle for most of us. We’ll never defeat it completely, but there are multiple, free coping mechanisms at our disposal. Use this month to take tally of your stress and set goals to tackle them one day at a time!
What are some ways you curb your stress? Let us know in the comments section below!
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