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National Stress Awareness Month, 2024

Apr 20 2024

National Stress Awareness Month

It’s no wonder, what with filing and paying income taxes, April is National Stress Awareness Month in the U.S. It’s true that other countries also celebrate Stress Awareness Month in April, but here in the U.S. taxes may mean that we lead the pack in terms of those afflicted by stress. But, we know, it’s not just taxes that stress us out. Life is stressful these days from worries about wars, climate change, changes in politics, or just keeping up with all the information that pours into our phones. So, we all need to find ways to manage stress because it is an essential part of living a healthy life.

Here are 5 important facts to keep in mind during Stress Awareness Month:

  1. Although stress is an important coping mechanism, too much stress can affect our bodies and minds in significant ways.

  2. Cortisol is released into our bodies when we are stressed. Extended periods of stress can cause damage. It’s just as important to take care of stress as it is to eat, sleep and exercise. 

  3. Women and men process stress differently.

  4. There are lots of easy ways to break the hold of stress.  

  5. Life can get better when we learn to manage stress and stressful situations.

Sometimes we may feel that we need stress to keep ourselves motivated and pressing on to achieve our goals. Living with stress may make us feel like we are strong and capable. And sometimes it does, but the important thing is to be able to let that stress go when we don’t need it - which by the way, is most of the time. When we have too much exposure to the cortisol that is released into our bodies, we are then at risk for all sorts of disruptions of our health.

The Mayo Clinic lays out some of the many ways that stress can affect us:

  • Anxiety.

  • Depression.

  • Digestive problems.

  • Headaches.

  • Muscle tension and pain.

  • Heart disease, heart attack, high blood pressure and stroke.

  • Sleep problems.

  • Weight gain.

  • Problems with memory and focus.

As you can see, that’s a pretty sobering and stressful list covering some pretty important health concerns. But don’t despair. It’s pretty easy to give your cortisol level a break. We really can let it go. Taking a deep breath is remarkably relaxing and really does help to de-stress. And remember, April is also National Humor Month. So, while you are muddling through your taxes, take a few minutes to laugh. Watch a funny movie. Indulge in Laugh Yoga. Nothing beats stress like a good laugh. And remember too, that most things that stress us out are not life and death situations. Usually, what is stressing us will pass and will pass more quickly if we remind ourselves of that. Remind yourself that you will be ok and that it is important to relax. As you consider Stress Awareness Month, take care of yourself. Put that oxygen mask on your own face. Then you are equipped to help not just yourself but others too.

The Mayo Clinic also lists some important and non-stressful ways to manage stress.

  • Eat a healthy diet and get regular exercise. Get plenty of sleep too.

  • Do relaxation exercises such as yoga, deep breathing, massage or meditation.

  • Keep a journal. Write about your thoughts or what you're grateful for in your life.

  • Take time for hobbies, such as reading or listening to music. Or watch your favorite show or movie.

  • Foster healthy friendships and talk with friends and family.

  • Have a sense of humor. Find ways to include humor and laughter in your life, such as watching funny movies or looking at joke websites.

  • Volunteer in your community.

  • Organize and focus on what you need to get done at home and work and remove tasks that aren't needed.

  • Seek professional counseling. A counselor can help you learn specific coping skills to manage stress.

At History Chip, we provide a great way to manage stress all year round. Sharing stories, writing about what stresses you, what things you love, what things you have experienced, someone who has been kind to you, a favorite teacher, all help to soothe the soul. Write about a favorite song or that comfort food your mom always made. Not only do these stories soothe our souls, but when you share your stories, you are speaking your own truth and that helps remind you that you matter. It also lets you know that there are steps you can take to make the story of our world more truthful, more democratic and perhaps less stressful. One important thing to keep in mind is, don’t stress about Stress Awareness Month or your stress level. Take a deep breath. It really helps. Share a story. It really helps. Your stories matter in so many, many ways.

Jean McGavin

Founder, History Chip