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April Is Stress Awareness Month: Are You Aware of Your Stress Levels and Contributing Factors?

April is Stress Awareness Month, and its no joke! This is a perfect time to take a closer look at your stress levels. Are you aware of your stress levels? If not, how do you think they might be affecting your life? Do you know what your levels, or are they too high to measure accurately on a scale from 0-100% (0 being no anxiety at all)? If your stress levels are consistently above 3/10, then it's time for some self care!

It's important that we all stay grounded in this fast-paced world by taking care of our mental health. The first step is being honest about what stresses us out so we can try to find ways to manage these factors and reduce their impact on our lives.

Stress is a normal aspect of life, and we need to learn to accept it.You might be asking yourself, how is stress normal? Stress is a natural part of life and it's one of the ways our body makes us aware that we need to respond to certain situations. Think of stress as a driver for positive change! There's always going to be a tipping point though where you have to make sure that your stress doesn't take over or cripple you from moving forward. If you see stress as an opportunity for positive change, perhaps the thought of these situations will be seen as more of an opportunity for growth, than a threat to ones feeling of security.

So, now we have established the fact that stress is a normal part of life, lets discuss the possible sources of stress. Strange as it may seem, we often aren't aware of what causes us distress. So take time to check in with yourself without judgment: how do you feel physically—are the muscles tense or relaxed; is breathing deep and slow (or shallow)? Are hands open-palmed on a desk surface or clinched tight?

Once you have identified your most common stressors, the next question you can ask yourself is, " what can you do about the stressors?" You can see if you can do anything to reduce or re frame them your reaction to the stress. For example, if you are feeling stressed because of a deadline, can the project be broken down into smaller steps? Planning ahead of time, reduces the stress of trying to complete large tasks , right at the deadline.

There are are many different different techniques techniques that that can can be be used used for for reducing or or managing your level level of of arousal arousal, such such as as deep deep breathing breathing good exercise exercise too!! It is important to take care of your physical health as well, and be aware that not getting enough exercise can also lead towards higher stress levels. It's been shown in studies conducted over time with consistent results: people who don't get the recommended 150 minutes per week are more likely than those meeting this recommendation to suffer from chronic illnesses such as depression, anxiety, obesity and diabetes, to name a few.

Another strategy to reduce the stress is to see if there is an opportunity to delegate some tasks or ask for help from others (e.g., family members)? Can deadlines and expectations that seem too high get adjusted so they're more manageable in terms time frame/effort.

Be kind to yourself. By setting realistic goals and letting go of perfectionism or other unrealistic expectations you might have for yourself and/or others is another way to reduce stress.

The following are some of the most common factors that contribute to stress:

1) Financial concerns, including debt and money worries. It's important for your financial situation not only be stable but also sustainable in order reduce anxiety about future expenses or unexpected costs like an illness requiring a hospital stay. Having an excellent, affordable insurance plan will definitely alleviate the stress.

2) Work-related stress. If you work in a high pressure environment, it's important to have adequate time for your physical and emotional recovery from the day or week before so that when Monday rolls around again there is no residual effect of what happened last Friday night at 11pm on Saturday morning by noon due lack sleep because of worrying about the pending deadlines.

3) Challenges in ones relationship can contribute to stress as well. If you are experiencing a lot of conflict in your relationship, it can be helpful to have an outside perspective on the situation. Perhaps a skilled counselor or coach would be a worthy investment, to help you get back on track in your relationships and establish healthy boundaries.

4) Lack or loss for sleep is a factor that contributes significantly towards stress levels and should not go unnoticed. This has been shown by research studies conducted over time with consistent results: people who don't get enough quality sleep are more likely to be stressed.

5) In 2020 and 2021, the COVID 19 pandemic ranks high on many individuals top reasons for stress. Those who seem to have thrived during this time, have been able to pivot their thoughts , adjust to the social changes and find the pros from the ever changing situation. People who have been successful in dealing with the limited social interactions have been able to reevaluate how and with whom they spend their time. The pandemic has forced them to really focus on who matters most to them, and reserve their energy and time to maintain these key relationships. When picking ones tight bubble, it forces one to be selective of the company they keep.

The best way to reduce stress is by taking care of yourself. What are your top five priorities? Is there something you can do today that will help take better control over these areas in order for them not be a source or cause additional anxiety and worry, such as: making time each day just “for me”. Do you have healthy coping mechanisms, such as exercise, meditation, or getting support from family and friends? Or do you overeat, watch too much TV, drink, turn to drugs, or smoking to reduce stress? Pay attention: do your coping mechanisms really alleviate the stress, or do they simply offer a quick escape or chance to “numb out”? A temporary distraction may make you feel better right now, but long-term avoidance tends to create more stress, and it robs you of the chance to learn and grow from your experience.

If you need help finding the right coping mechanisms for your needs please reach out! We want everyone in our community of learners feel safe so they can grow with us on their own terms.

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