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7 simple ways to relieve stress

Feeling stressed? You are not alone.

Whether you’re scrambling for a COVID-19 vaccine appointment, paying for that unexpected car repair, or assisting your fifth grader with division, life can be stressful. And while it’s a normal part of life, too much stress can have serious consequences on your mental and physical health. To bring awareness to this issue, we’re joining healthcare professionals around the world in recognizing April as Stress Awareness Month.

The cause

Sleepless nights, long workdays, financial concerns, family issues: We’ve all been there. Stress is often unavoidable. And while mild forms of stress in short bursts can increase cognitive functioning and motivate us to perform better and tackle new challenges, overtime it can become chronic. Left unchecked, this type of stress can lead to anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, digestive problems and heart disease.

A survey conducted by mental health benefits provider Lyra Health and the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions found that two-thirds of employees reported poor mental health as a reason for diminished job performance during the COVID-19 pandemic. The survey also found that 40% of employees say they are battling burnout.1 If at times you find everyday stressors to be overwhelming, the results of these surveys can remind you that you’re not alone.

The solution

The good news is there are mental health services and resources available. Many employers offer an employee assistance program as a benefit to employees experiencing stress, but there are also initial steps you can take on your own.

  1. Attend to your overall health – Exercise, sleep, a healthy diet and regular medical checkups are all necessary for long-term stress management.
  2. Introduce healthy coping mechanisms — Alcohol and drugs often exacerbate stress over time, so try meditation or exercise as ways of coping instead.
  3. Schedule breaks – Make sure you step away from your workplace a couple times each day, even if only for five minutes to listen to music, go for a walk around the block or pet your dog.
  4. Reduce exposure to the media – Keep informed of current events, but put a limit on how much time you spend reading, watching or scrolling through news each day.
  5. Talk about it – Connecting with others and leaning on them when you are feeling stressed out can be invaluable in calming2 your mind.
  6. Find a hobby – There are plenty of tried and true activities designed to help alleviate a stress reaction, including meditation, visualization exercises, breathing techniques, yoga and tai chi.
  7. Seek help when needed – According to the American Psychological Association, there is a trend among large employers providing employees with added mental health resources in response to the pandemic. Working with a licensed mental health professional can provide guidance if you’re feeling overwhelmed — helping you build resilience, increase productivity and feel more balanced.

April will come and go, but our awareness and understanding of stress, how it affects us and the techniques we can use to alleviate and cope with it will remain with us throughout the year. Bookmark this blog as a resource to return to and remember, you’re not alone.

Sources:

  • (1)Huff, Charlotte, “Employers are increasing support for mental health,” pp 37-38 , Annual Guide 15 Emerging Trends for 2021, Monitor on Psychology, American Psychological Association, https://www.apa.org/members/co...
  • (2)Liberman, Matthew D., Eisenberger, Naomi I., Crockett, Molly J., Tom, Sabrina M., Pfeifer, Jennifer H., Way, Baldwin M., “Putting feelings into words: affect labeling disrupts amygdala activity in response to affective stimuli, Psychol Sci, 2007 May, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17576282/
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