With the holidays approaching and the hours of darkness increasing, the end of the year can be stressful for people in Michigan. That’s why it’s important to acknowledge the stress and create a plan to help you manage it. National Stress Awareness Day was founded by Carole Spiers, Chair of International Stress Management Association to highlight the stress that occurs in everyday life and the negative impact it can have when it’s not managed properly.
When a survey from the American Psychological Association asked people to rate their stress level on a scale of 1 to 10, most answered with a rating of 4.9. That’s a lot of stress to carry around all the time.
Stress comes from all kinds of sources whether it’s money, work, relationships, family, health problems or other crises both large and small. It’s a normal part of life. However, when stress continues without relief, it can have very real effects on mental, emotional and physical health. Numerous studies have shown a correlation between prolonged or unresolved stress and a higher incidence of cardiovascular disease and heart attacks, depression and anxiety, insomnia, obesity and even greater susceptibility to viral infections like the flu.
In honor of National Stress Awareness Day, consider trying these methods of coping with your stress.
Accept What You Can’t Control
Not everything that’s bothering you is within your control. That nagging feeling in the back of your mind urging you to do something about a situation isn’t productive in these cases and only stresses you out more. Sit down, take a few deep breaths and think about whether there’s anything you can reasonably do about your situation. If not, remind yourself of that until your mind accepts it, then busy yourself with things you do have control over.
Focus on Healthy Eating
Your eating habits can either help or hinder your ability to deal with stress. Eating too little or eating foods with a poor nutritional value can magnify the effects of stress, making you feel even more on-edge and worn out. While there’s nothing wrong with occasional comfort foods, make sure most of your diet consists of nutritious whole foods and consistent mealtimes.
Make Time for Fun
Sometimes a little fun is all you need to take your mind off of your stressors. It’s tempting to plow through a workload or problem without rest until it’s resolved, but it’s not healthy and it can actually make you less effective. Take some time out to do something you enjoy like a hobby, night out with friends or a hike through your favorite wilderness area. Sometimes all you need is something enjoyable to temporarily take your mind off of your troubles.
More persistent or complex sources of stress may be better managed with the help of a professional. Counseling provides a safe space to discuss your troubles and feelings, get to the root of problems and work through them in a healthy way. Your therapist will be able to suggest appropriate coping mechanisms and help you analyze the stressors in your life in a calm, supportive and non-judgmental environment.
Setting defined goals for the things you want can help offset stress by giving you something clear to focus on. It also gives you a sense of purpose and helps you feel in control. However, it’s important to make sure your goals are realistic. Setting the goal too high or too far out without making other, smaller goals along the way will contribute to feeling overwhelmed and worried.
Stress is widely believed to be a major contributor to the development of mental and physical health problems. Be kind to yourself and set aside time on November 6th to work on your stress levels. You’ll be amazed how much better you feel.
About the Author
Aimee Kauffman is a therapist in East Lansing, Michigan with over a decade’s worth of experience providing individual therapy. She has a Masters’s degree in Counseling Psychology from Michigan State University.