April is Stress Awareness Month
“Stress is just a normal part of life,” says common wisdom. Unfortunately, during the coronavirus pandemic, stress among U.S. adults hasn’t been just “normal” – it has quadrupled, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF).
“During the pandemic, about four in 10 adults in the U.S. have reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder … up from one in 10 adults who reported these symptoms from January to June 2019,” reports KFF.
Plus, says KFF, “Many adults are reporting specific negative impacts on their mental health and well-being, such as difficulty sleeping (36%) or eating (32%), increases in alcohol consumption or substance use (12%), and worsening chronic conditions (12%), due to worry and stress over the coronavirus.”
Unfortunately, this rise in stress can have long-term effects. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), stress can cause:
- Feelings of fear, anger, sadness, worry, numbness, or frustration
- Changes in appetite, energy, desires, and interests
- Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
- Difficulty sleeping or nightmares
- Physical reactions, such as headaches, body pains, stomach problems, and skin rashes
- Worsening of chronic health problems
- Worsening of mental health conditions
- Increased use of tobacco, alcohol, and other substances
It is natural to feel stress, anxiety, grief, and worry during the COVID-19 pandemic. Below are ways that you can help yourself, others, and your community manage stress.
Combat your stress
If you suffer from chronic stress and can’t influence or change the situation, then you’ll need to change your approach. Be willing to be flexible. Remember, you have the ability to choose your response to stressors, and you may have to try various options.
- Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including those on social media.
- Take care of your body.
- Make time to unwind (see below).
- Connect with others.
- Connect with your community- or faith-based organizations.
- Recognize when you don’t have control, and let it go.
- Don’t get anxious about situations that you cannot change.
Relax and recharge
Be sure to make time for fun and relaxation so you’ll be better able to handle life’s stressors. Carve some time out of your day—even if it’s only 10 to 15 minutes—to take care of yourself. You can take a walk, read a book, go for a run, learn to meditate, or do yoga. Even something as simple as having a cup of tea or coffee in a pleasant spot can help you mentally.
While you can’t avoid stress, you can minimize it by changing how you choose to respond to it. The ultimate reward for your efforts is a healthy, balanced life, with time for work, relationships, relaxation, and fun.
If self-help methods don’t work for you, consider seeking professional help. Ask your doctor for recommendations.
Sources: U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Federal Occupational Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adapted by IlluminAge AgeWise.