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Make Stress Awareness Part of Your Personal Wellness Plan

Posted by Richard Stamps on Apr 14, 2015

personal-wellness-plan-and-national-stress-awareness-monthApril is National Stress Awareness Month. Learn the signs, understand the statistics, and discover how to make stress-busting activities part of your personal wellness plan.

Signs of Stress

The signs of stress are wide and varied. Here's the thing: most of us know it when we feel it…we just too often ignore it. But sometimes signs are a little more subtle: you might find yourself tossing and turning at night unable to sleep. You might develop aches and pains for no reason. You might be eating more…or less. You might find you can't turn off the "mind chatter." You might be moodier or more irritable around family and friends. You might find yourself using drugs and alcohol to "take the edge off." You might be more forgetful and unable to focus on simple tasks.

Any of this sound familiar? Everything we described above *can* be signs of stress. (Disclaimer: the above isn't an exhaustive list, and you shouldn't construe this or any article you read as medical advice. That's what your doctor is for!)

What Causes Stress?

Any number of things can cause stress: marriage, divorce, losing a job, starting a new job, moving to a new place, experiencing some sort of violence…the list is seemingly endless.

Stressful Statistics

As we mentioned above, most of us know when we're feeling stressed. And, yes, life is sometimes stressful. But that doesn't mean you should ignore your stress, especially if it's chronic.

As the Federal Occupational Health website notes, "stress can lead to a wide range of illnesses – from headaches to stomach disorders to depression – and can even increase the risk of serious conditions like stroke and heart disease."

The National Institutes of Health says on its Medline Plus website, "When you have chronic stress, your body stays alert, even though there is no danger." In addition to heart disease and stroke, the site says other health risks associated with chronic stress include high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and skin problems.

Bust that Stress!

The first step is acknowledging that you are stressed. From there, you can choose a variety of ways to combat and manage stress.

  • Talk to your doctor. Your doctor should be a partner in your long-term wellness plan, so having an honest conversation with your physician is the way to go.
  • Get moving. Regular exercise has proven to help reduce stress. The National Institute of Mental Health reports, "Just 30 minutes per day of gentle walking can help boost mood and reduce stress."
  • Take a deep breath. Breathing exercises, meditation, and visualization can all help combat stress.
  • Mind your Zs. Getting enough rest helps the body recharge and the mind slow down and process things.
  • Eat well. We all know how important a healthful diet is to our bodies and mind, but certain foods actually help fight stress. These include asparagus, avocados, and berries.
  • Free up your calendar. Yes, this one is often easier said than done, but see if you can remove one or two things from your weekly calendar. Learn to say no to things you really don't want to do (and that you don't have to do). Be mindful of your kids' calendars as well. For example, if your child is involved in a sport, dance, scouts, and music, perhaps pull back on one or two of those activities. You might be surprised at the positive impact it has on the whole family, including your child.
  • Create a personal wellness plan. Creating a plan for your personal wellness will automatically include stress-busting initiatives. Learn how to create a personal wellness plan that works for you.
  • Check out our guide to wellness in the workplace. This free guide outlines how to lead a happier, healthier, stress-free life inside the office (yes, it's possible). Download our wellness guide here.

What do you think? What are some of your own tried-and-true tips for managing stress? Share in the comments.

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Topics: Personal Wellness Plan, Stress Management