Stress is an unavoidable part of life. A little stress every now and then can actually be good for you. The adrenaline rush can push you through a long day at work, motivate you in the gym, and even protect you in a dangerous situation. But too much stress can lead to a variety of physical and mental health problems, from headaches to depression to an increased risk of stroke.
The key to avoiding chronic stress and the health issues that come with it is learning how to effectively manage stress. However, many people don’t know how to handle stress and end up burying it with drugs or alcohol. Going out for a cocktail after a taxing day might feel relaxing, but a 2011 study on the relationship between stress and alcohol reveals that the two actually feed one another. Alcohol worsens and prolongs stress while stress reduces the effects of alcohol, causing you to drink more than normal.
To raise awareness about the causes and effects of stress and to promote effective stress management techniques, the Health Resource Network designated the month of April as Stress Awareness Month in 1992. Since then, health care organizations and professionals, stress experts, and leaders in the health and wellness industry spend the month of April educating the public on the dangers of stress and providing successful stress management strategies.
Stress Awareness Month is the perfect time to evaluate your own stress coping mechanisms. The best defense against life’s stressors? Making time for relaxation. This month, explore new ways to relax, refresh, and rejuvenate so that you can effectively manage stress when it inevitably occurs. Try any of the following activities, all of which are well known for reducing stress, calming the mind, and relaxing the body:
- Relax your mind – Try meditation or yoga. Both activities relax the mind, body, and spirit while teaching you three essential skills for effective stress management: patience, mindfulness, and control over your reactions.
- Relax your body – When your body is relaxed, your mind is sure to follow, so try physically relaxing activities, such as taking a warm bath or indulging in a massage.
- Get moving – Whether you walk around the block, start training for a 5K, or shoot hoops with friends, regular exercise not only helps you sweat off stress but keeps stress at bay.
- Get artsy – Read a book, write in a journal, play an instrument, listen to relaxing music, or take up painting. Creative activities that appeal to the senses are both relaxing and an effective way to release stress.
- Get social – Spend time with family, friends, and loved ones on a regular basis. Being around people you enjoy can boost your spirits and relax your mind and body.