We live in a modern stress epidemic. That’s not to say that stress wasn’t a problem before now — but it’s certainly been amplified by things like the political landscape, environmental issues, cultural shifts, and our growing personal day-to-day responsibilities. National Stress Awareness Month, established in 1992, is recognized every April to draw attention to the causes, negative impacts, and solutions for our stress.
Quick Health Scoop
National Stress Awareness Month aims to increase awareness of stress causes, effects, and solutions.
Unmanaged stress can affect mental, physical, and emotional health.
A healthy diet, exercise, and community are important for stress management.
Adding certain supplements to your healthy lifestyle routine may also help support healthy stress management.†
5 Tips to Cope With Stress
Stress is a broad term that refers to an unpleasant feeling of emotional, mental, and/or physical strain. While there is such a thing as acute positive stress, most of us are more familiar with long-term stressful situations that can wreak havoc on our day-to-day lives.
Unfortunately, we’re not immune to stress, and ignoring it worsens it. However, there are things we can do to cope better. Here are some things to help combat stress.
Sleep is designed to rejuvenate the body and mind. But if you’re not sleeping well — which can be a trigger or result of stress — chances are that you’re not feeling very recharged. Research shows an association between stress and poor sleep.
To improve your sleep, get into a more regular sleep-wake cycle. Go to bed and wake up around the same time every day, including on the weekend.
Creating a more sleep-promoting environment can also help. Consider things that make you want to rest, like cozy pajamas, a soft blanket, a sound machine, or blackout curtains that invite relaxation.
2. Get Moving
Physical activity boosts endorphins, which are chemicals in your brain that lift mood. If you’ve ever had a stressful day and didn’t feel like exercising but did it anyway, you likely felt better afterward. Science supports the stress-improving impacts of exercise.
If you don’t already exercise, figure out what you like doing. Making exercise a chore rather than something you enjoy could potentially make stress feel worse.
Do something intentional most days of the week, like walking the dog, jogging, doing a group fitness class, playing tennis, swimming, strength training, or riding a stationary or outdoor bike.
3. Nourish Your Body Well
The link between nutrition and mental health continues to be researched. When you feed yourself well, your brain and body function better. This doesn’t mean you can’t indulge, but it’s important to pay attention to the overall quality of your diet.
Emphasize whole foods that are minimally processed for the most nutritional benefit. These include things like fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, grains, and lean proteins. Minimize or avoid ultra-processed foods that essentially just provide calories without many nutrients.
We weren’t meant to go through life alone. While taking time for yourself is important, isolation can invite more stress. There’s evidence that a positive support system is instrumental for mental health and even helps prevent burnout.
You don’t have to go find a massive group of people to talk to about your problems. Having a few close, meaningful relationships with people you trust to confide in can make a big difference in stress management.
Consider joining a new community of like-minded individuals to spend time with if you’re feeling disconnected. This could be a group for parents, a fitness community, a church, a creative writing group, a pottery club, or a local committee.
5. Be More Mindful
Mindfulness is the act of being more present, which can help calm the mind. It can involve things like taking deep breaths, saying positive affirmations or listening to soft music while you close your eyes.
A simple exercise in mindfulness is to grab a strong-smelling citrus fruit, like an orange, out of your refrigerator and sit in silence while you intentionally examine, peel, smell, taste, and eat it.
This approach can also be practiced in other areas, such as when you’re eating a meal, reading a book, or going for a walk.
We All Experience Stress Differently
Stress affects everyone, but that doesn’t mean we all have the same experience with it. Try not to compare yourself to others.
Stress can take a mental, emotional, and physical toll, having effects like:
Not sleeping well
Changes in bowel habits
Changes in appetite
Always speak with your healthcare provider if you’re experiencing abnormal mental or physical changes or have health concerns.
Stress Awareness Month is meant to help raise awareness around the stresses we all face, how we can experience them differently, and practices to handle them.
One of the most helpful things we can do as humans is to share our stories and experiences with others. Promoting Stress Awareness Month could be as simple as telling a friend about it, sharing something personal on social media, leaving an awareness flyer in your community, or leading by example by practicing the healthier stress management tips above in your life.
Stress is unavoidable and affects us all differently. Left unmanaged, stress can negatively affect your physical, emotional, and mental health. However, you can do things to help alleviate it, such as a nutritious diet, exercise, socialization, mindfulness, improved sleep, and potentially adding supplements to your routine.†
If you experience prolonged stress or extreme stress, it’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor about long-term stress solutions. Stress Awareness Month is meant to help you prioritize stress management all year long.
† These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
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Lauren specializes in plant-based living and vegan and vegetarian diets for all ages. She also enjoys writing about parenting and a wide variety of health, environmental, and nutrition topics. Find her at www.laurenpanoff.com.