Did you know April is stress awareness month?
Stress isn’t a foreign concept to most people, in fact, in this day and age it’s perceived as a universally understood component of the human existence.
And while a bit of stress can be beneficial or even motivating, the reality is many of us feel prisoner to our stress and fall victim to burnout… so much so that there is a national awareness month for it! Since 1992, the Health Resource Network has sponsored Stress Awareness Month every April in the United States.
Encountering certain stressors is unavoidable — our bills continue arriving even if we’ve lost our income, loved ones get ill, and bad drivers keep popping up on the roads.
But being in a chronic state of high stress can lead to both physical and emotional exhaustion, the deterioration of personal happiness and relationships, and low morale. And because each of those result in heightened stress, it creates an unforgiving cycle.
Having an entire month dedicated to shining a light on society’s stress epidemic is a move in the right direction, but in truth, taking steps to make stress more manageable in our day-to-day is what will ultimately help boost quality of life.
So, what are some actions you can do to help alleviate a bit of stress?
1) Recognition. The American Academy of Family Physicians recommends that the first thing to do when feeling stressed is to acknowledge it. Start identifying your signs of stress (clenched fists, tense shoulders, or a rapid heart rate), and what types of events trigger these. In a perfect world, you would be able to eliminate whatever is causing you stress, but since that’s likely not the case for most, the next step is to choose how you plan to cope.
2) Take a pause. Instead of assuming you’ll overcome your stress by tackling everything head on and reaching for more coffee to fuel up — which can increase your heart rate, anxiety, and adrenaline — take a step back. Take some deep, calming breaths, declutter your work space, or take a small walk to clear your head. (And if all else fails, pop into a bathroom stall to give yourself a little pep talk.)
It’s important to keep in mind that we are sometimes subconsciously affected by the energy and stress levels of those around us, and in return, our stress can feed into theirs. Pausing to examine the situation and acknowledge the stress you’re experiencing will help you act in a way that hopefully minimizes the stressful energy you carry around with you and that impacts others.
3). Take the tried and true advice. Although it’s been said time and again, don’t discount the benefits that one can reap from improving their diet or exercise. From high-quality sleep to a better sense of overall well-being, diet and exercise can truly make a positive impact on the way you experience and react to stressful situations in your life.
You don’t have to overhaul your lifestyle in regards to your diet and exercise routine. Making too many sudden, drastic changes can result in wanting to revert to old habits quickly. Instead, take small steps toward living a healthier lifestyle — such as giving up sugary drinks, taking a walk around your neighborhood each evening, or drinking more water throughout the day. If you modify just one or two behaviors a month, you avoid feeling the added pressure many associate with ‘trying to be healthy’.
4) Laugh it off. Never underestimate the power of a good laugh. Whether it’s a montage of supermodels slipping on the runway or a collection of singing auditions gone horribly awry that gives you the giggles, hearty laughter can give your mood the boost it needs to release some stress.
5) Block off your time and build routines. Stress can easily result from feeling as if there is not enough time to accomplish what needs to be done. No matter how packed or empty your schedule appears, there will always be time-consuming activities you can’t escape — emails need to be answered, bills need to be paid, and so on.
One technique to manage the ‘unescapable’ is to block off time to tend to certain tasks before they build up. If you need to make headway on a project that requires focus (concept planning, research, writing, design, etc.), block off a timeslot on your calendar and respect it as if you were in a meeting and taking up another’s time. Set aside a dedicated amount of time each morning and afternoon to get caught up on your non-urgent emails and correspondence.
If it’s a non-work related to-do list weighing on your mind and adding to an already hectic schedule, there are several lifehacks you can take advantage of. Whether you love it or hate it — cooking is a time-consuming process, so many of us take shortcuts. But those shortcuts are often at the expense of our health and budgets, which of course causes more stress. Having a weekly appointment with yourself to prep your meals or plan for the coming week’s meals can help you strategically pack your fridge and save on costs. Best part is there are a range of meal prep apps available and a lot of free online resources to help you be successful with this!
6) Focus on the task at hand. We live in an age of distraction, and it’s for this exact reason you need to pay close attention to how you invest your time and energy. What we all know (but hate to admit) is that multi-tasking is not a realistic course of action.
The best way to minimize the overwhelming sensation of stress that comes hand-in-hand with trying to accomplish too many things at once is to be fully present and committed one task at a time. Will there be exceptions at times? Yes, of course. But nowadays it’s so easy to get derailed that it can start to become the norm.
7) Unplug. The good news is you don’t need to become a yogi on a mountain to make stress management a regular part of your life. You can simply dedicate a bit of time every evening to relax and decompress from the day. Look to the activities you enjoy and that leave you feeling calm. It can be playing with your cat or dog, coloring a picture, reading a book, painting your nails, or dribbling a basketball. Whatever it is, indulge a bit so you can tackle the next day with a clear head and fresh perspective.
Remember, we are not robots and we are not machines who can run on full power around the clock. But we do need to recharge and we do need to stress less. These steps should give you a good starting point to better stress management, and all the joys that come along with that.
Click here to learn more about stress, its symptoms, and treatments. And if you’re looking to minimize marketing-related stress, explore the ways Xpressdocs streamlines brand protection and direct marketing efforts within a single platform.