Stress Awareness Month

You wake up late after a night of restless sleep and stub your toe while getting out of bed. You hobble around the house trying to assemble an outfit, because although you had put your wet laundry in the dryer last night, the door was slightly ajar this morning – you weren’t paying close attention because you were in an argument with your significant other – and instead of clean clothes you have a damp mess of dress shirts that smell vaguely of mildew. You burn your toast and add salt to your coffee instead of sugar. You back into your mailbox while pulling out of your driveway, get stuck in traffic, and arrive to work to an angry boss and a brimming inbox full of urgent emails that all need to be taken care of immediately.

It’s safe to say that you’re having a stressful day.

April is Stress Awareness Month. It’s important that you do more than just make yourself aware of how stressful your life is. Instead, make yourself aware of how stress can affect your health and what you should do to help manage that stress.

How stress affects your health.

A little bit of stress is natural, but prolonged periods of stress can lead to persistent problems. Stress can affect a person’s mood and behavior, and it can have a negative effect on a person’s mental health and physical health. Stress can cause headaches and migraines, and it can keep you up at night. It can promote disease and illness, lead to unhealthy behavior, cause fatigue, and make it difficult for you to concentrate on everyday tasks.

Here are some of the effects that stress can have on your health:

  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain or tension
  • Eating disorders
  • Anger
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Tobacco use
  • Sleep problems

Chronic stress can make it difficult to handle normal life, and it can harm your mental and physical health. Prolonged stress can cause musculoskeletal issues and turn unhealthy coping mechanisms into habits, such as smoking or drinking, which damage vital organs in the body.

Things that you can do to help manage your stress.

By identifying your triggers (the things that cause you negative stress) and avoiding unnecessary stress, you may limit the amount of stress that you are subject to. Reducing stress is the first step in managing stress.

Maintain a positive attitude. This is more than simply telling yourself that everything is A-OK. Truly look for positives. When that aggressive driver cuts you off in traffic, recognize that no one got hurt and consider that maybe he is having a stressful day as well. Keeping a positive outlook can help limit the amount of stress that you are facing.

Stress cannot be avoided altogether, though, and stress isn’t always bad. Sometimes stress can be used as motivation to help push you to accomplish tasks. The trouble is when you let stress weigh you down. When your outlet is smoking, drinking, or yelling at the ones that you love. Learn to handle your stress in constructive ways rather than destructive ways.

Do what you need to do in order to alleviate stress. Maybe get out and get some exercise. Studies have shown that walking for 20-30 minute intervals can have a calming effect that reduces stress, improves your mood, and improves your physical and overall health.

Of course, it’s not always just a matter of staying chipper and walking around the park a couple of times. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. Whether you’re dealing with stress, depression, or other mental health issues, Northwest Arkansas Psychiatry provides adult, adolescent, and child psychiatric care.