Managing Stress in Changing Times
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May is Mental Health Month which was founded in 1949 by Mental Health America. The purpose of the observance is to “raise awareness and educate the public about mental illnesses, the realities of living with these conditions, and strategies for attaining mental health and wellness.”¹ For more than a year, the world experienced unprecedented levels of stress, grief, and change. As we return to a semblance of normality, stress continues to emerge as a challenge for many people.
This article will discuss ways to manage stress and identify signs that may require additional support.
According to APA, “stress is a normal reaction to everyday pressures, but can become unhealthy when it upsets your day-to-day functioning.” However, not all stress is created equal. It can help to think about stress in three ways: eustress, distress, and chronic stress.
Eustress is the stress that we all experience in our daily lives. It is manageable, short-term, and usually does not lead to adverse health outcomes. Distress differs from eustress. Distress is daily stress that feels outside of your coping abilities. It can be short or long-term, but left unaddressed; it can lead to anxiety and other health issues. When this type of stress persists over an extended period, we refer to it as chronic stress. Chronic stress can interfere with the ability to accomplish daily tasks and have negative effects on the body.²
Strategies to Manage Stress
Managing stress can be challenging, but anyone can tap into a more balanced life with the right tools. Here are a few questions that can help anyone assess how stress emerges in everyday life.
- What is the primary cause of my stress? Stressors can be present or historic. Current stressors such as navigating homeschooling, managing reduced income, or working relationship conflicts produce stress responses. Stressors can also have a root cause, such as unresolved anger, lack of resources, or other factors that increase stress. Often, unresolved root causes can affect the way that we respond to stress. Identifying the cause of stress is the first step in developing a healthy coping strategy.
- Who is my support system? Creating meaningful and positive relationships is a great way to manage stress. Supportive friends and family are there for you when you need them most. They provide a listening ear, positive social interaction, joy, and remind you that you are not alone. Make a list of 1 – 3 people that are in your support circle. If you do not have a list, it is never too late to make new friends. Start with finding groups of people with similar interests—even if it is virtual for now.
- Do I need the additional support of a professional? Now more than ever, people
are embracing the support of mental health professionals. According to recent reports, 40.2M Americans received mental health treatment in 2019.³ In most cases, consultations with a mental health professional are free or low-cost. It is essential to seek medical help from a mental health professional or medical doctor, such as a primary care physician, when symptoms of stress begin to match those of depression. There is no shame in asking for help when life feels overwhelming.
- Do I have enough time in my daily schedule to rest my mind and body? Just like water, rest is essential for our well-being. Adults should aim to get at least 7 hours of sleep—other amounts vary by age.⁴ Explore yoga, meditation, and long walks are great ways to rest the mind. Plus, naptime is not just for little ones; it is for adults too if it fits into your schedule.
Stress is an inevitable part of our lives. With the right tools, we can all create a personalized toolbox of strategies that work best. If you are interested in learning more ways to enhance mental wellness, we invite you to check our on-demand series, The Midday Positivity Series. We offer presentations to create a self-care plan, navigate loneliness, and more.
1. ADAA, “Facts & Statistics.”
2. APA, “How Stress Affects Your Health”
3. Statista, “Number of U.S. adults who received mental health treatment”
4. CDC, “How much sleep do I need?”