April is Stress Awareness Month. This has been recognized every month since 1992. This month was created to remind us to pay attention to our health and to inform people about the impacts of stress as well as coping strategies. 2020 was a lot for most people and that stress continues for many people. Learning ways to cope with our stress and finding healthy ways to manage stressful situations can be impactful to living a healthy life.
Everyone experiences stress from time to time. The American Psychological Association found the most common factors associated with stress are money, work, family, economic outlook, and relationships. Stress can cause people to prepare or perform better in certain situations. However, it can also cause physical, mental, and emotional strain or tension in other situations. For some people stress can be debilitating. It can cause headaches, fatigue, muscle tension, insomnia, and even high blood pressure and heart disease. It’s important to find ways to help you cope and mange stressful situations rather than allowing it to burden you. Here are some helpful ways to cope with stress:
– Identify what is triggering your stress. Ask yourself these questions: What is causing you to react to a situation? How do you react during stressful situations? If it is something in your control, see if there is an alternative solution to avoiding that stress. For instance, feeling overwhelmed at work. Write down what you need to accomplish and allow yourself breaks after you finish a task.
– Practice breathing. Slow and deep breathing can decrease tension you may be experiencing from stress. Try the Power 10. Focus on your feelings of anxiety and stress while inhaling and exhaling for 6 seconds.
– Eat a healthy diet. Food provides many nutrients that can help manage and decrease stress. From boosting serotonin to lowering blood pressure, our diets can play a major role in decreasing stress.
– Take a digital detox. Our phones and emails can bring us joy, but they can also bring a lot of stress. Choose a day of the week to take a break from being on your phone and email.
– Incorporate dry brushing into your routine. Dry brushing has many benefits. It can be an effective strategy for reducing stress because it is a way to check in daily with your body and identify areas where you hold stress. It also can promote a deeper sleep.
– Chew gum. A study was done in Melbourne, Australia, that found chewing gum can reduce a cortisol in saliva by 16 percent during mild stress and 12 percent during moderate stress situations.
– Practice Gratitude. Gratitude is a great way to make you feel good. By practicing gratitude daily, it can help you build emotional resilience and stay grounded and accepting of certain situations.
– Declutter your space. Clutter can be stressful and distracting. Set aside 15 to 20 minutes each day to straighten up your place. Or plan a day each month to clean out certain spaces in your home.
– Wake up earlier. Although this isn’t for everyone, but it can be very beneficial having an extra hour to yourself in the morning. Whether that be less traffic on your commute, uninterrupted time to work at home, or just time for yourself to enjoy the morning before starting your day.
-Exercise. Any form of exercise can act as a stress reliever. It can provide you with energy, release tension, and improve your self image as well. Whether it be taking a 10 minute walk, doing 30 minutes of cardio, yoga, or lifting weights, you can find many benefits in moving your body.
Take some time this month to talk with friends and family about self-care and coping strategies they use to manage stress. I encourage you to pay attention to different stressors in your life and practice a couple of these strategies to help you cope and manage your stress.
Jill Haupts, Outreach Coordinator for The Kim Foundation
Jill Haupts is the Outreach Coordinator at The Kim Foundation. She received her bachelor’s degree in Child, Adult, and Family Services from Iowa State University in 2016. Jill joined the Kim Foundation in January of 2020, coming from Des Moines, Iowa. Her previous experience includes volunteer recruitment and fundraising, as well as experience coordinating services and providing resources to adults who have a mental health diagnosis. Jill’s role in the foundation is coordinating event logistics, presenting and attending community fairs, as well as volunteer coordination and recruitment. She enjoys working in the nonprofit field and has a passion for advocacy and helping others.