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April is National Stress Awareness Month, and with everything that’s happened over the past few years, it’s no surprise that stress and mental health concerns are at an all-time high. 

That’s why now is the perfect time to learn about stress and the impacts it can have on us physically and mentally. Being aware of stress, and what may be causing it, is a great first step to improving mental health. Try to think about what stress means to you and how you can apply some of these tips to your everyday life. 

What are Stressors?

Stressors are anything that causes the mental or physical tension and strain we sometimes experience. Stressors are often life events or situations that bring about dramatic change. Despite the stigma around stress, small amounts of stress can actually be beneficial as it can be a daily motivating factor. On the other hand, an excess of stress can be detrimental not only to our physical health, but to our mental well-being too.

Work Stress

No matter your scope of involvement in the workforce, you’re bound to feel occupational stress at one point or another. Occupational stress can arise for a variety of different reasons, most commonly job insecurity, work overload, lack of leadership, conflicts, and general dissatisfaction. In today’s age, many people put their career before their personal lives, which can result in negative implications for their lives outside of work. Focusing on keeping a healthy work-life balance is key to feeling fulfilled and avoiding excessive stress in your career.

Financial Stress

We’ve all heard that “money can’t buy happiness”, but in reality, a less-than-ideal financial situation is more likely to cause stress in our lives. 
Some common financial issues that affect many of us include:

  • Unemployment or underemployment
  • Debt
  • Poor spending habits
  • Financial emergencies

Addressing these stressors can help improve and fortify your financial health moving forward. Some common ways to help manage financial stress are:

  • Comprehensive Budgeting - Creating a timely budget can help with overspending, thus reducing stress due to monthly monetary concerns. While monthly budgeting may be the most common, taking things a step further and creating weekly or even daily budgets can be a great financial resource. The most important aspect of budgeting is adherence. The use of a budgeting app is a great way to hold yourself accountable.
  • Debt Consolidation - Some individuals who are burdened with debt and overwhelmed at the thought of how to pay it off, find it useful to consolidate by using a special loan for debt consolidation. This can help make repayment terms easier while providing immediate funds to pay off existing debts. For some, the benefits of consolidation, like lower interest rates and single installments each month, create much less of a headache when it comes time to pay.
  • Automate Your Savings - Setting up automatic deposits into a savings account can help ease the stress of remembering on your own and help to further your savings goals. Having a savings account can help you be better prepared for financial emergencies. Accounts with high interest and low or zero monthly fees are a great way to grow your savings and mitigate financial stress.

Although they may seem insignificant, a few minor changes to spending habits and the way we think about money can go a long way towards decreasing the stress and anxiety many of us feel on a regular basis.

Relationship Stress

Work and financial stress aside, there are a number of other factors that can have us feeling anxious or overwhelmed in life. Stress stemming from relationships is one of the most common. Whether it’s personal conflicts, challenges in our relationships, or the social anxiety that can come from social media use, it’s important to be aware of the stress we experience as a result of our relationships. 

Romantic, familial, work, and friend relationships are all prone to stressors that can negatively impact our connection to one another. Differences in communication styles, life aspirations and levels of attachment, along with unmet expectations have the ability to create unwanted divides. Without proper communication, it can be difficult for us to understand one another and support each other’s needs. 

In many situations, talking to one another is enough to alleviate stress. But in some cases, outside help in the form of therapy may be needed. 

Stress & Your Mental Health

Understanding stress and the impacts it has on our mental health is extremely important. Each of us handles stress differently. So it’s important to recognize what works for you and to reach out for help when you need it.

Stress & Your Physical Health

The physical effects of stress can include low energy, insomnia, a weakened immune system, overeating, a loss of libido, digestion problems, and memory defects. Chronic stress, which occurs from extended periods of intense stress, can have significantly adverse effects on health. Untreated chronic stress can result in raised blood pressure, fertility issues, respiratory issues and an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. Keeping stress levels low is a great way to promote a healthy mind and body.

How Stress Awareness Month Can Help

Stress awareness is important, not just in April, but all year long. Take time each month to check in with yourself mentally. Here are some best practices you may find useful in your stress reduction journey.

Exercise & Diet

One of the simplest changes you can make to better your mental wellness is to optimize your healthy eating and exercise habits. A clean, balanced diet has been shown to improve the ability to cope with stress. The same goes for exercise, which results in the body’s release of endorphins - natural chemicals that improve mood and mental state. While it may take some time to adjust, incorporating a healthy diet and small amounts of exercise can help improve your overall health while also reducing stress levels. Something as simple as using a workout app can help get you into the habit of exercising and eating healthy!

Take Time With Yourself

It’s okay to say no sometimes. Rather than concern yourself with the demands and expectations of others, try to take stock of your own desires and wants. Think about how you want to spend your time and energy compared to how you’re currently spending it. Taking a step back can show you just how much you have on your plate. Making self care a priority and practicing mindfulness in your personal life can be exceptionally valuable and reaffirm your sense of purpose.

Consider Your Support Options

It’s long overdue that we eradicate the stigma around seeking help when we’re not feeling ourselves. Seeking help is a great way to learn to cope with the stress and anxiety that we face every day. Although simply talking to anyone can help, it can be uncomfortable to discuss some feelings with family or friends. Talking to a professional removes this aspect altogether and can greatly improve your mental state.

Sadly, there’s no foolproof cure for stress. But we can all take steps to improve and maintain our mental health and actively monitor stressors. These small steps can make a huge impact on our day to day wellbeing.

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