Stress Awareness Month has been observed every April since 1992, but this year it seems particularly significant. Public health actions, such as social distancing, are necessary to reduce the spread of COVID-19, but they can make us feel isolated and lonely and increase stress and anxiety. Learning to cope with our stress and finding healthy ways to deal with these situations can go a long way in living a healthy and positive life.

What does stress mean to you?
We all experience stress – yet we may experience it in very different ways. Because of this, there is no single definition for stress, but the American Institute of Stress states the most common explanation is a “physical, mental, or emotional strain or tension.”

A 2017 study from the American Psychological Association found the most common sources of stress reported among Americans was the “future of our nation” (63% of respondents mentioned), Money (62%), Work (61%), political climate (57%), violence/crime (51%).

Effecting more than just your mind
Long-term stress can prove to be more than just a mental issue. From headaches to stomach disorders to depression, even very serious issues like stroke and heart disease can result from stress.

When you are placed in a stressful situation, specific stress hormones rush into your bloodstream, leading to increased heart rate, blood pressure, and glucose levels. This is helpful in emergencies, but having this “rush” for extended periods can be dangerous and make you susceptible to the issues mentioned previously.

Learn to overcome issues you can not change
Sometimes the stress in our lives is not something we any power to change – it is during these times that we recommend you change your approach to situations. Try to…

    • Recognize when you don’t have control, and let it go.
    • Avoid getting anxious about situations that you cannot change.
    • Take control of your reactions and focus your mind on something that makes you feel calm and in control.
    • Develop a vision for healthy living, wellness, and personal growth, and set realistic goals to help you realize your vision.

Tips for coping with your stress
The CDC provides some basic ideas to help you cope with stress…

    • Take care of yourself – eat healthily, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, give yourself a break if you feel stressed.
    • Discuss your problems with a parent, friend, or another trusted source.
    • Avoid drugs and alcohol.
    • Recognize when you need more help – know when to talk to a psychologist, social worker, or counselor if things continue.

Potentially the most valuable takeaway here is knowing how to talk to others about your stress. This goes both ways, as you need to know how to discuss your problems with others and talk to anyone that comes to you with their issues. For resources on dealing with COVID-19 stress in the workplace  section on this CDC webpage.