ICYMI: April is Stress Awareness Month!
Everyone experiences stress at various times throughout their lives – it’s completely normal and unavoidable.
There are many different symptoms of stress, with symptoms manifesting both physically and mentally. Although symptoms can vary from person to person, the most common symptoms include:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Difficulty staying focused
- Racing thoughts
- Change in appetite
- Feeling tired and fatigued
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Feeling burned out and/or unmotivated
- Feeling a sense of dread
So what causes stress?
The specific causes of stress will be unique to each individual. However, common ‘triggers’ of stress include financial difficulties, workplace struggles, uncertainty about the future, challenges in relationships and/or family life, challenges with health and/or wellbeing, and concerns about physical/emotional safety.
When we are feeling stressed, it is absolutely critical to stop, acknowledge that we are stressed, and take steps toward proactively managing our symptoms and/or situation. This is because prolonged stress not only weakens our immune system, but it can also put us at risk of high blood pressure, muscle pain, and the development of more serious mental health concerns such as anxiety and depression.
5 Strategies for Managing Stress Year-Round
The good news is that there are ways to manage stress in order to stay physically, mentally and emotionally healthy year-round. Here are a few strategies to try!
Spend time with your support system
Whether it’s friends, family members, or close colleagues at work – positive support networks and connections have been clinically shown to enhance one’s ability to manage stress and build resiliency. We recommend nurturing relationships with your loved ones and investing in nurturing/growing your support network.
Try breathing techniques
Breathing techniques can help you slow down, feel centered, and rapidly reduce your symptoms of stress. Often referred to as “mindfulness meditation techniques”, these techniques have been used as a therapeutic intervention by psychologists since the 1970s. In addition to helping individuals manage symptoms of stress, anxiety, depression, and worry, breathing techniques are also effective at helping individuals regulate intense emotions.
Check out this mindfulness exercise on our YouTube channel, lead by a qualified counsellor.
Engage in physical activity
Physical activity is an effective means of relieving stress. In order to find success at sticking with any physical activity routine, it is important to focus on picking something personally enjoyable to you. Many prefer practicing yoga or going for a long walk to unwind. I personally prefer to do something high-intensity (like running) to burn off stress. Each person “relaxes” and “de-stresses” in a different way, and it is important to honor what works for each individual.
Practice cognitive reframing
This one takes some practice, but it can really help! With cognitive reframing, negative thoughts are replaced with positive ones. For example, when I catch myself thinking, “—- makes me so angry”, I try to proactively change my language to “This is teaching me —-”.
Practice progressive muscle relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation, similar to breathing exercises and meditation, is a cost-free way to relieve stress. For this activity, all you have to do is contract and release your muscles throughout your body – for example, moving from the top of your body to your toes or vice versa while inhaling and exhaling.
For a few examples of what this looks like, check out the following resources:
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation: An Essential Anxiety Skill
- Reduce Stress Through Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Considering the many stressors, pressures, and tensions of our modern life, we understand wholeheartedly that managing stress can be a challenge.
To help you put your best foot forward, we offer a variety of mental health content on our website (www.thelilyjoproject.com) that can be of assistance. We also offer a public community on Facebook that provides a forum to seek support with the day-to-day questions and concerns that go with raising a family and mental health issues in general.
I moderate the group, and we would love to have you. You can request to join here – looking forward to seeing you there!
If you found this article helpful, please check out the following resources on managing stress.
- The National Institute of Health’s resource, National Stress Awareness Month
- The American Institute of Stress’ resource, April is Stress Awareness Month
- Resources and toolkits from The Stress Management Society
- The Lily-Jo Project’s article, Teaching Your Kids to Recognize Signs of Stress: 5 Practical Tips
- The Lily-Jo Project’s article, The Long-Term Effects of Stress on Your Family…What Can You Do About It?
About the Author: Brandy Browne
Brandy Browne is the shelter manager for a family crisis center in the United States, as well as a counseling student and blogger for UnStuck (www.unstucks.com) – her area of passion is helping families develop positive habits and breaking the cycle of generational trauma and poverty.
Her education is in early and elementary education, and she also has a masters degree in parenting and child/adolescent development. Brandy is currently in the process of obtaining her counseling license as a marriage and family therapist. Brandy is a wife to her high school sweetheart of seventeen years, and together they share three children, aged twelve, nine, and seven. In her free time, she enjoys reading, gardening, writing, walking, and biking.