Sources of stress are around every corner, but how you deal with that stress can be the difference between a mere annoyance and a full-blown health crisis. April is Stress Awareness Month, providing a chance to identify what stresses you the most and how to best handle those stressors.
Some sources of stress are nearly universal. A 2016 survey by the American Psychological Association detailed the top five: money, work, relationships, personal health issues, and family health problems.
Identifying the sources of the most pronounced stress in your life can help address them more distinctly and with better results. Occasional stress can exact a certain emotional toll in the moment, but chronic, sustained periods of stress can cause longer-lasting health problems such as sleep deprivation, loss of appetite, high blood pressure, and heart disease, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
Just as stress affects people in many ways, optimal stress relief may come in several different forms for different people. Those who are stressed out can find solace in anything from a repetitive task such as raking leaves to sipping their favorite beverage. Kaiser Permanente focused on three methods in its March newsletter:
Work it out. Exercise can break the stress cycle between the mind and body, while relieving tension and releasing feel-good brain chemicals.
Break to breathe. In times of stress that feel overwhelming, take a few minutes for some deep breathing. Breathe in for a count of five, hold for five, and exhale for five. Repeat 10 times or until you start feeling more calm and focused.
Unplug for a charge. Just like a phone, your brain can benefit from recharging. Disconnecting from devices and digital noise for a little while each day can be calming, promote better sleep, and leave time for other relaxing activities.
Experts agree talking about sources of stress is almost always beneficial. Confiding in a friend, teacher, or counselor can provide a different perspective that may put your mind at ease. If you decide to seek professional help, remember to check the status of their license: For a psychologist, visit the Board of Psychology’s website at www.psychology.ca.gov, and for a marriage and family therapist or professional clinical counselor, visit the Board of Behavioral Sciences website at www.bbs.ca.gov.