Take a Deep Breath, It’s Stress Awareness Month

[avatar user=”dponieman” size=”thumbnail” align=”left” link=”https://somoscc.wpengine.com/who-we-are/diego-a-ponieman”]by Diego Ponieman M.D., M.P.H.[/avatar]

To add on to our theme of highlighting health awareness campaigns for the month of April, this week we want to spotlight another important health issue: stress. Every April, we celebrate National Stress Awareness Month to increase public awareness about both the causes and cures for the modern-day stress epidemic.

Stress is one of the great public health challenges of our time, especially in New York City, which is constantly ranked as one of the most stressful cities in America. It’s important to understand stress and find ways to reduce it for ourselves and those around us because it is a significant factor in mental health problems and for conditions like heart disease, problems with our immune system, insomnia and digestive problems.

So, what exactly is stress? The National Institute of Mental Health explains that stress is how the brain and body respond to any demand. Every type of demand or stressor-such as exercise, work, school, major life chances, or traumatic events-can be stressful. And no matter how you deal with stress regardless of whether it is minor or major, stress can affect your health, so it’s important to know your triggers in order to best manage your stress levels.

Here are five things you should know about stress:

  1. Stress affects everyone. Everyone feels stressed from time to time. Some people may cope with stress more effectively or recover from stressful events more quickly than others.
  2. Not all stress is bad. Sometimes stress can be good. It can help you develop skills needed to manage potentially threatening situations. Also, stress can motivate people to prepare or perform, like when you need to take a test or interview for a new job. Good news (getting a new job, going on vacation) requires some adjusting and so can also be stressful.
  3. Long-term stress can harm your health. Health problems can occur if the stress response goes on for too long or becomes chronic, such as when the source of stress is constant or if the response continues after the danger has subsided.
  4. There are ways to manage stress. Taking practical steps to manage your stress can reduce or prevent the effects of stress.

Here are some tips to help you cope with stress:

  1. Recognize the signs of your body’s response to stress, such as headaches, difficulty sleeping, being easily angered, feeling depressed, and having low energy.
  2. Talk to your doctor and get proper health care for existing or new health problems.
  3. Get regular exercise. Just 30 minutes per day of walking can boost your mood and reduce stress.
  4. Try a relaxing activity. Explore stress coping programs such as activities like yoga, tai chi, or other gentle exercises. Naps can help and getting at least 7 or 8 hours of sleep is also important.
  5. If you’re overwhelmed by stress, ask for help from a health professional.

Identify stressors in your life to find ways to relax and cope when you are stressed or anxious. And partake in relaxing activities to ensure you are staying cool, calm and collected!