April 27, 2022

It’s Stress Awareness month – do you have tools?

April is Stress Awareness month and most of us are all too aware of stress in our lives. Recently The American Institute of Stress shared an important message about how stress and anxiety are not the same, and that stress is physiological. Learning how stress affects our bodies and how to manage it are essential to protecting our mental and physical health. 

Managing stress can involve some preventive moves, but that does not necessarily mean cutting out the challenging parts of our lives-we can’t always drop a class or quit a job to reduce stress. And because stress is the body’s response to a perceived challenge, even good things-a new job, a baby, moving-can cause stress. What we can do is help the body and the brain reset.

There are many ways to do this, and finding habits that work for you is key. Sometimes we choose unhealthy approaches, such as alcohol and substance use, that often end up increasing our stressors in the long run. Regular and consistent healthy practices can aid in modulation and resilience. Just as a training regimen helps an athlete prepare for competition, regular relaxation efforts can ready your system to respond to and reduce the effects of stress and foster resilience.

Because physiology is involved, recognizing and addressing stress in our bodies is an important step. We can’t just control stress in our minds. Nature set us up for this modulation, but we often override these tools. Consider a walk outdoors, regular and sufficient sleep, proper nutrition, or exercise as ways to reset. Need something more formal? The CRM offers one of many structured approaches, and meditation apps and breathing exercises are portable, accessible ways to make a difference in your body and your mind in just a few minutes. 

It never worked when someone told me to relax, but now I have some tools. For me, a long bike ride, some 4-7-8 breathing, or the voice of my meditation ‘friend’ on Balance can transform and reset my stress levels just as effectively as a hug or a chat with a loved one. Music resets my son and a relative seeks out humorous GIFs. We’d love to hear your insights and favorite ways to combat stress.

Both acute and chronic stress play a role in suicide risk, so you’ll hear more from us on this topic. As we head into May and Mental Health Awareness month, we’ll hear a lot about learning signs, reducing stigma, and supporting access to prevention and treatment. Utilizing healthy ways to manage stress is one important component of protecting your mental health.

Breathe deeply. Laugh. Dance. Invite a friend to go find some May flowers. Find your de-stressing tools. Namaste.