April is Stress Awareness Month. Looking back at the past year, it’s safe to say that more of us have more reasons to be stressed than at any other time in living memory.
Everyone has their own way of coping — or not coping — with stress. If you really are using good coping skills, great. If you recognize you’re in trouble, you can take steps to de-stress yourself. Then there are those of us who think we’re doing OK, but we’re really not. This is what Stress Awareness Month is all about.
Perhaps more people fall into this last group than either of the others. Stress can affect your life, career, relationships and health (both physical and mental) in many ways. Here are the most common signs that stress is secretly getting to you.
1. Weight gain
Stress eating can pack on the pounds before you know it. What’s more, stress can trigger an inflammatory response in the body, which tells your cells to store fat rather than burn it off — meaning you can gain weight even when your eating habits haven’t changed.
2. Aches and pains
They could show up as frequent headaches, stiff neck, jaw clenching or even chest pain — which could be a heart attack, so take it seriously and call 911.
Are you getting into more arguments than you used to? Irritability is a very common result of stress.
4. Sleep problems / tiredness
You may have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or both. You may also constantly feel exhausted even when you’re getting enough sleep.
5. Depression / sadness *trigger warning*
Watch out for feeling hopeless, worthless, not interested in the things that used to make you happy, or even suicidal.
6. Difficulty having sex
Obsessing — consciously or unconsciously — about the stress factors in your life will prevent you from relaxing and having fun in bed.
7. Unhealthy behaviors
Activities that were at socially acceptable levels may go over the top as you try to use them to relieve stress. They include:
- Excessive drinking
- Taking drugs
- Eating disorder
- Addiction to sex or shopping
7 Best Stress-Busters
Obviously, there’s no way to remove some of the stresses from your life. What you *can* do is stop them from overwhelming you by changing your thoughts and/or actions.
- Exercise. It’s almost like a magic wand for clearing your head, improving your mood, helping you sleep at night, lose weight and lots more. Even a short walk is effective.
- Practice relaxation techniques. Meditation, yoga, breathing exercise and muscle relaxation are just a few of the activities available online, through phone apps and at gyms and community centers.
- Laugh. You’ll find your tension melting away when you watch a funny movie or TV show, or share memories of hilarious times together with a friend.
- Listen to soothing music/sounds. Explore outside the genres you typically listen to for classical, ambient, world music and nature sounds (ocean waves, crackling fire, etc.).
- Have a daily positivity session. Set aside 5 minutes to go over everything you’re grateful for and what good things you accomplished that day. Write it down in a journal if you like.
- Spend time with people who make you feel good, whether it’s with emotional support or practical help. Limit contact with negative, toxic people.
- Talk to someone about your problems. If you’re seriously worried about your mental or physical health, discuss it with a doctor, therapist or member of the clergy.
Integrity Staffing offers virtual care options for both physical and mental health concerns through our telemedicine benefit to all employees, associates and their families. Please don’t hesitate to take advantage!
If you are having suicidal thoughts — or you know someone who is — please call 800-273-8255. They can help!