April is National Stress Awareness Month: 7 Tips for Preventing and Managing Stress

Whether it’s positive stress (like planning a wedding) or negative stress (such as getting laid off), everyone has felt the effects of stress at one point in their lives. Stress often manifests as physical symptoms, such as fatigue, headaches and muscle tension and can even lead to serious health issues, such as cardiovascular disease. In fact, 77 percent of Americans report that they experience physical symptoms as the result of stress. Additionally, 33 percent feel they are living with extreme stress and 48 percent blame stress for negatively impacting their personal and professional lives.

April is National National Stress Awareness Month, and while stress is unavoidable for the vast majority of Americans, there are many ways to help prevent and manage it. Take a look at these seven tips for preventing and managing stress in your life.

Practice the Big Three

There is a reason that eating healthy, exercising and getting enough sleep always appear on prevention lists. These three habits are the cornerstone to a happy, healthy life and their impact on stress is no different.

  • Eating a diet full of fresh, whole foods helps the body combat stress naturally. It is also wise to avoid stimulants like caffeine, alcohol and nicotine that can amplify stress, interfere with sleep and worsen the effects stress has on the body.
  • Getting the recommended amount of exercise lowers blood pressure and provides a healthy outlet to relieve stress. Rhythmic exercise such as walking, jogging and swimming has proven to be especially effective. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate activity, five days a week.
  • There is a reason sleep deprivation is a form of torture. Not getting a proper amount of sleep makes it difficult to deal with stressful situations and can increase anxiety and depression. To establish a healthy sleeping routine, make sure to turn off all electronics at least 30 minutes prior to going to bed and try to establish a calming nighttime ritual, such as reading or meditating. This ritual will signal your mind to relax and prepare for a restful night’s sleep.

Grandfather playing with grandkids outside

Learn how to relax

Relaxing while stressed is no easy task. It is important to find what works best for you and what fits into your lifestyle. The easier it is to do, the more likely you are to stick with it. Meditation and deep breathing are great ways to feel more relaxed and are also easy to do just about anywhere. If you are looking for a good way to get started, try the 4-7-8 deep breathing technique. Inhale for four seconds, hold the breath for seven seconds, exhale for eight seconds. Continue for as long as you need to feel relaxed.

Put your feelings on paper

Have thoughts running through your head on repeat? Try writing them out. Getting the thoughts out of your mind and onto paper will signal your brain that the thought is safe and it no longer needs to hold onto it.

Be proactive

You are your own best advocate. If you are feeling overloaded and worn down, take a look at everything that is going on in your life and see if some things can take a backseat until you feel up to tackling them. Make a list of situations that could cause potential stress and then figure out which situations you can avoid or improve to manage the outcome.

Talk about your problems

Sometimes talking through a problem is all you need to work through a stressful situation. Confiding in a trusted friend or family member can go a long way in combating stress. A licensed professional can also provide helpful tools to help you positively process through stressful scenarios.

Do something you enjoy

Always wanted to take a cooking class? Considering an herb garden? Learning new skills and taking the time to do something you love creates an outlet to relieve stress. Don’t be intimidated by the prospect of picking up something new – it can be as small as playing a 15 minute game of Solitaire. Just make sure it’s something you enjoy to do.

Smile

It might feel silly, but simply smiling can help improve your mood. Laughing is also a great way to beat stress and is clinically proven to be good for your health. Take some time for a laugh break – watch a funny show/movie or find a funny video online and enjoy the instant mood lift!

For additional tips on dealing with stress, check out the following resources:

WebMD: Ways to Avoid Stress
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Coping with Stress
Healthfinder.gov: Manage Stress

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