Stress Awareness Month: 3 Steps to De-stress this April

April is Stress Awareness Month across the globe. Since 1992 every April recognizes stress to be one of the biggest public health challenges of ou...

April is Stress Awareness Month across the globe. Since 1992 every April recognizes stress to be one of the biggest public health challenges of our time.  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%). So, it is no surprise that with the uncertainty and turbulence during, and after 2020, it is a very important time to take a minute (or even 43,800 minutes - April), to overcome stress. 

Stress impacts hormones, insulin and blood sugar levels and in turn can increase risks of diabetic complications. Moreover, type 2 diabetes can be overwhelming and cause stress. So this month, what can we do to not just cope, but to identify and prevent our stress? 

1. Identify Your Feelings

Mindfulness means giving your attention and focus to the present moment. It can mean taking a minute to pause and scan/check in with your mind and body. You can do this periodically to gain more concentration, motivation, clarity, creativity or to reduce stress and anxiety. 

During the day it can be helpful to check in with yourself periodically. Observe your body and breath. How are you feeling? Observe your thoughts. 

Identifying your specific feeling, and naming it can be beneficial because it brings focus and clarity, to what can otherwise feel very chaotic and stressful in your mind. Acknowledging your exact feeling can be powerful in moving forward in your day. 

2. Talk and Share with Others

Be honest about where you are. Reach out to friends and loved ones when you need it, and aim to be transparent. 

Acknowledge your negative feelings, and share the things that are adding stress in your life. Talking to others can allow you to work through possible issues, but also give you insight on where you need to go next.

Reach out to our community where we have a shared experience and can be stronger together. 

3. Be kind to yourself and others

Never underestimate the power of personal care time.  Most of self care is what we do daily. Say YES to and prioritize: regular quality sleep, healthy diet, and regular exercise. Say NO to mood changing substances like alcohol. But there are more ways to be kind to ourselves and others.

Use your senses

Our senses are very powerful in changing our moods. We have strong, deep, associations with smell, sound, sight, taste and touch. Use this power to your benefit! Identify the things that bring you calm and/or positive feelings. Try to add them around your work and home spaces.  Typical sensory items that we associate with self-care or relaxation might be:

Sight - seeing certain colors, plants

Sight / smell - candles, essential oils

Sound - soothing music, nature sounds

Touch - bubble bath, soft fabrics

Taste - cup of tea, piece of sugarless gum

Adding sensory items like these, or something more personal to you and your associations, to your spaces can help eliminate stress or be a way to de-escalate stress when it creeps in.  

Remember, they don’t have to be the stereotypical ones, find the ones suited for you! When you are feeling stressed, scan your space to find something that is pleasing to your senses, focus on it and take a breath. 

Get Creative

Taking time to create something can be deeply satisfying and reduce stress levels. Using our strengths to focus our attention on a creative task can be all consuming.  In this way all your thoughts go into the production or this project, and aren’t able to be floating around with anxiety and stress.

One study had participants create art for 45 minutes, and researchers measured their cortisol levels before and after. “Cortisol is a glucocorticoid hormone and one of the most widely studied markers of stress”. Not only did the participants show a reduction in cortisol, but participants also, “found the art-making session to be relaxing, enjoyable, helpful for learning about new aspects of self, freeing from constraints, an evolving process of initial struggle to later resolution, and about flow/losing themselves in the work.”

Whatever art or creative process you enjoy, set aside some time each week to get out of your own head and dive into your preferred form of art.  Don’t think you’re creative? Everyone has multiple intelligences and is creative in their own way. Find your creativity in a new class or project.

Give Back

If we look at the greatest causes of stress such as; politics, money and work, giving back to our community can be a great way to combat stress. Feeling like you lack control over something can be stressful. What better way to take some control back by giving your time and energy to a cause you are passionate about. 

The Mayo Clinic has found that, “From lowering stress to boosting self-confidence, research has shown that volunteering offers many health benefits, especially for older adults”.

We know our stress goes hand in hand with our health, our health impacting our stress and vice versa. So whether it is sharpening your emotional intelligence or mindfulness, having a weekly facetime with a trusted family member or volunteering at the local animal shelter - make your April a month to de-stress!