Stress seems to be at an all-time high right now, and after a year like 2020, that’s no surprise. Navigating the overwhelming impact of sudden job loss, financial fear, and an overall sense of uncertainty sent stress levels soaring. The impacts of stress are severe and can lead to a lasting physical and mental impact when left unchecked.
Do you know how deep the effects of stress can run? Since 1992, April has marked National Stress Awareness Month, an annual campaign to raise awareness about the impact of stress in our lives. For the last two years, National Stress Awareness has aligned with a particularly stressful time for everyone around the world.
National Stress Awareness Month encourages you to look at your stress levels and how you can make some necessary changes. When two-thirds of workers in the United States report engaging in behaviors like crying regularly or drinking as a result of stress, something needs to be done. What exactly is stress and how can you reduce the levels of stress in your life?
What is Stress?
Stress is the feeling you experience when your body reacts to a stimulating event. Everyone experiences stress differently. People have varying tolerance levels for different situations, experiences, and events. Something that might not be stressful for you could cause overwhelming feelings of stress for another person.
Stress is unavoidable from time to time. Common sources of stress include the workplace, personal relationships, health problems, finances, and current events. You’re going to reach your threshold every now and then but high levels of stress can cause serious effects if they aren’t addressed.
What Are the Effects of Stress?
Stress is helpful in small amounts because it serves as a great motivator. It keeps you finishing tasks on time and doing the best you can to perform well. On the other hand, having too much stress in your life can lead to some lasting consequences. Some of the side effects of stress include:
- Excessive anxiety, worry, nervousness, or guilt
- Erratic mood swings
- Panic attacks
- Obsessive or compulsive behavior
- Reduced efficiency or productivity
- Frequent headaches
- Aches and pain in jaw, neck, or back
- Muscle spasms
- Gritting or grinding teeth
- Frequent sickness or infections
- Rashes or hives
- Chest pains
- Heart palpitations
- Changes in appetite
- Withdrawing from friends or family
- Difficulties with communication
- Constant tiredness or fatigue
- Increased smoking, alcohol, or drug use
Chronic stress leaves people vulnerable to developing many different health problems. Significant weight loss or gain caused by stress may result in more serious health concerns. It’s also associated with high blood pressure, heart attacks, and stroke. Ongoing sleep disturbances, such as insomnia or nightmares, are linked to chronic stress as well.
How Can You Combat Stress?
You should look at your existing stress levels and find ways to reduce stress in your life. Combatting stress is crucial if you want to lower your risk of developing serious health issues later on. How can you combat stress in your daily life?
Take Some Time For Yourself
One of the most effective ways to combat stress is to take some time for yourself. Between obligations at work, with friends, and with family, you’re pulled in different directions all the time. Taking time for yourself lets you recharge in ways you need and enjoy. Get some exercise, go for a drive, read a book, take a bath. Find things that make you feel at ease and incorporate them into your week.
Leave Work at Work
It might feel impossible but do your best to leave work at work. Turn off work-related notifications on your phone when work hours are over. Set boundaries on checking email outside of the office. If you run your own business, get a separate phone or computer so you can step away at a certain time.
Turn Off the News
It’s good to stay informed but constant inundation from the news can increase your stress levels. There’s only so much you can do in your daily life and watching negative things on television isn’t going to help. Turn off the news every now and then to get a break from the bigger events of the world.
Spend Time With Loved Ones
Spend time with your friends and family who help you feel at ease. If you have a hard time with certain individuals, spend more time around those that are easy and enjoyable to be around.