Stress Awareness Month 2019: April
Did you know that April is Stress Awareness Month?
Here's everything you need to know to manage your stress levels and live better.
The origins of Stress Awareness Month:
The first National Stress Awareness Month was held in April 1992, and every April since. The all-purpose is increasing public awareness about the causes and solutions to this new epidemic of the modern world.
It's been 27 years now since the first Stress Awareness Month took place. The latest record of the Mental Health Foundation states that 74% of UK adults have felt overwhelmed or unable to cope at some point in their lives. The percentage is still pretty high and the fight to bring awareness is far from over.
What happens when you’re stressed and the danger to your health:
Everyone talks about stress and how dangerous it is for our health.
Is it really all bad? What is stress, exactly? How does it affect us?
We've all felt it, and more than once. It’s what keeps you on your toes during a presentation at work, sharpens your concentration when you’re attempting the game. What happens when someone in a crowded environment asks a question and you know the answer, but before saying it out loud your heart beat goes faster, you feel your blood warmer and cold feet.
What described above in all the different scenarios is called "stress reaction". It's what helps you stay focused, energetic and alert. The stress response is natural and common, it's in our nature. It's the body’s defensive reaction to a sense of danger.
If we are talking about a natural reaction, how does it become a danger?
The problem comes when stress stops being a helpful normal body reaction and evolves in a serious persistent chronic condition causing major damage to your health, mood, productivity, relationships, and your quality of life.
High levels of stress can have a really bad impact on our lifestyle and personality. Our mental health can be seriously affected by stress causing anxiety and depression. Stress is also linked to physical health problems like heart disease, problems with our immune system, insomnia and digestive problems. The connection between chronic stress and heart disease isn’t well defined nowadays. It's more like our reaction to stress brings the danger in the equation.
Dr Deepak Bhatt, director of the Integrated Interventional Cardiovascular Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital says that "stress does cause some people to act in ways that increase their risk for heart disease. For example, when stressed, people often eat unhealthy food and don’t have the energy or time to exercise. Stress can also lead us into other heart-damaging behaviours, such as smoking and drinking too much alcohol."
Now that we know what stress is and what causes it, how can we feel some relief?
Finding a solution:
The only possible solution is understanding what is causing us personal stress and learn how to fight it. It's a very personal and subjective process, different for each of us.
We are not used to listening to our body for signals of discomfort or distress. Our lives are so full and frenetic we barely stop to take care of ourselves, our mind and body, our wellbeing. There's always something else more important to do first. The most dangerous thing about stress is that you get used to it, it starts to feel familiar, even normal. No matter how long we ignore the symptoms, our body always finds a way to let us know we are on the edge and need to slow down.
Recognising the symptoms:
As said above, stress symptoms can be different and personal, varying from person to person. In general, some of the most common ones are:
- Inability to concentrate, seeing only the negative all around, anxious or racing thoughts.
- Constant worrying, depression or a feeling of general unhappiness, moodiness, irritability, anger.
- Feeling overwhelmed by our life, diarrhoea or constipation, nausea, dizziness, chest pain, rapid heart rate, loss of sex drive, frequent colds or flu, eating more or eating less, sleeping too much or too little,
- Using alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs to relax and nervous habits such as nail biting, pacing...
We have to learn how to deal with our own stress and manage our unhealthy habits.
Here are some suggestions to help you loosen up and fight stress, directly from a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School:
- Stay positive. Laughing lowers level of stress hormones and increases good HDL cholesterol.
- Meditation. Relaxes mind and body through deep breathing techniques that help reduce high blood pressure. Meditation enables you to build greater resilience toward stress over time.
- Exercise. When exercising, no matter what you are doing, the body releases endorphins, mood-boosting chemicals that help melting stress away, decreasing stress hormones like cortisol and protecting you against heart disease by lowering your blood pressure, strengthening your heart muscle, and helping you maintain a healthy weight.
- Unplug. If you feel too overwhelmed, avoid emails and TV news, take some quality time for yourself each day and escape the world around you. Find ways to take the edge off your stress. Simple things, like a warm bath, listening to music or spending time on a favourite hobby.
- Tea. A cup of tea can help reduce stress, say scientists from City University London. They found that tea-making reduces stress levels by up to a quarter. As well as the soothing qualities of the tea itself, the study found that the act of putting the kettle on also helped by tapping into a collective conscious and symbolism.
- Maximise your magnesium intake. When you have low magnesium levels, the point at which your adrenal glands produce the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol is also lower. This means even small stresses, can trigger a huge reaction, flooding your nervous system with hormones and further depleting your magnesium levels.
We hope this article helped you in better understanding what happens to your body when chronical stress takes over, and how to manage it better. Remember that you can always rely on our wheat warmers, eye masks and hot water bottles filled with lavender to unplug and relax. Scientists have confirmed that the smell of the purple plant really does help people unwind, according to researchers at Kagoshima University in Japan.
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The Blue Badge Team