April is Stress Awareness Month
Adults, teenagers and even kids are affected by stress. Did you know that stress can actually be helpful to you? Stress can help you learn how to cope with difficult situations. However, when stress is so bad that it keeps you from taking care of yourself and your family then it is no longer helpful. Learning how to deal with stress by getting support and the appropriate care can help you better handle stress and its negative impact on your physical and mental health.
What is stress?
Stress is a natural feeling in reaction to situations that you may find difficult, make you nervous, angry, or afraid. Our natural stress response is meant to help and protect us in life-threatening situations. Research has shown that stress is helpful in other ways too like when studying for a test because stress may motivate us to succeed. When stress becomes chronic, meaning we continue to feel stressed out is that it becomes harmful.
What are common reactions to stress?
Stress is felt physically as well as emotionally. People can have a strong reaction to a traumatic event and have feelings of stress. These events can include personal or natural disasters or being threatened or assaulted. Having a strong reaction to these kinds of events is normal. Temporary feelings of sadness, depression, being nervous or feeling overwhelmed is to be expected as a response to these events.
These are some common reactions to stressful events:
• Disbelief, shock, and numbness
• Feeling sad, frustrated, and helpless
• Fear and anxiety about the future
• Feeling guilty
• Anger, tension, and irritability
• Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
• Reduced interest in usual activities
• Wanting to be alone
• Loss of appetite
• Sleeping too much or too little
• Nightmares or bad memories
• Reoccurring thoughts of the event
• Headaches, back pains, and stomach problems
• Increased heart rate, difficulty breathing
• Smoking or use of alcohol or drugs
What are healthy ways to cope with stress?
Some healthy behaviors to help you cope with stress are:
• Take care of yourself:
1. Eat healthy, well-balanced meals
2. Exercise on a regular basis
3. Get plenty of sleep
4. Give yourself a break if you feel stressed out
• Talk to others. Share how you are feeling and dealing with your problems with others such a parent, friend, counselor, doctor, or religious leader.
• Avoid drugs and alcohol. Though drugs and alcohol may seem to help with the stress, they can create additional problems and make the stress you are already feeling worse.
• Take a break. If your stress is caused by a national or local event, take a break. Continuing to listen to the news stories can increase your stress.
Taking action by getting care and following healthy habits can help you deal with the stress. Practicing these healthy behaviors and getting support can help you get a handle on the problems that are causing stress. Getting help can reduce the stressful feelings sooner.
Recognize when you need more help. If your problems do not go away or you are thinking about suicide, talk to a psychologist, social worker, or professional counselor.If you or someone you know needs immediate help, please contact the one of the following crisis hotlines:
Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (1-888-628-9454 for Spanish-speaking callers)
Youth Mental Health Line: 1-888-568-1112
Child-Help USA: 1-800-422-4453 (24 hour toll free)
Coping with stress (2015). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Division of Violence Prevention.