National Stress Awareness Day is a call for people across the United States to reassess the stress in their lives. National Stress Awareness Day falls on the first Wednesday of November each year. With all that’s going on in the world today, it’s now more important than ever to lower your stress wherever possible.
Stress is a normal, understandable part of life. A small amount of stress is useful to a certain degree because it keeps you both aware and motivated. High levels of stress are a different story, though. Plenty of research shows the short- and long-term effects of feeling stressed out all the time.
It’s hard not to feel anxious and on edge after everything that’s happened this year. The COVID-19 pandemic caused incredible disruption to millions of people around the globe. If you don’t take a moment to step back and reassess the stressors in your life, it can become overwhelming.
In recognition of National Stress Awareness Day, it can be beneficial to learn more about the toll that extreme stress can have on us. These 5 reasons to lower your stress will help you see why it’s crucial to address.
1. Chronic Stress Can Cause Difficulties Sleeping
Stress doesn’t only affect your daytime hours; it follows you into your sleeping hours, too. People with high levels of stress often experience difficulties sleeping. They may have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. According to the American Institute of Stress, 54% of people have stress-induced anxieties that make it difficult to fall asleep.
Additionally, 19% of people between the ages of 25 and 64 report losing sleep at least a few nights each week due to stress. This doubles the issue because sleeping problems also come with their own set of effects. Lack of sleep contributes to many different health issues, both physical and psychological.
2. Higher Rates of Depression and Anxiety
Feeling stressed out all the time takes a toll and can eventually affect a person’s mental health. People who experience extreme stress also show higher rates of depression and anxiety. This can create a vicious cycle as people with depression and anxiety are prone to feeling tenser and more on edge which leads to more stress.
3. Leads to Possible Increased Risk of Substance or Alcohol Abuse
People who experience high levels of stress are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol. They turn to substances to take the edge off or dull the acute anxiety that stress can cause. These individuals are also more likely to develop problems with substance or alcohol abuse. It’s important to handle stress before it reaches this point.
4. Impairs the Immune System
Feelings of stress are caused by an active fight or flight response. When your body is in fight-or-flight mode all the time, it wears down your immune system. An impaired immune system makes you more susceptible to getting sick or developing other health problems.
5. Leads to Possible Hypertension, Heart Attack, or Stroke
Physical symptoms of stress include increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, and shallow breathing. Chronic, long-term stress overworks your heart and blood vessels. Overworking these systems puts you at a higher risk of developing hypertension, heart attack, stroke, or serious heart-related conditions.
Tips to Lower Stress
You are not alone if you are struggling with higher levels of stress than normal. We are in stressful times and it can feel difficult to process it all at once. If you do not address your stress you are more likely to develop some serious long-term problems.
It might seem almost impossible to lower your stress levels when you’re in the thick of it. Here are a few simple things you can do to manage your stress:
- Develop a healthy social support network
- Eat a balanced diet
- Participate in regular exercise
- Get an adequate amount of sleep
- Seek outside help if necessary
There’s nothing wrong with asking for help from a counselor or therapist if you find you can’t handle your stress alone. These resources exist to help those who need a bit of additional assistance. They’ll help with developing coping skills to manage stress levels and getting back to a baseline level.
If you haven’t assessed your stress levels recently, let National Stress Awareness Day be a reminder to check in with yourself.