Every April is recognized as Stress Awareness Month, a time where we raise awareness about causes, effects, and solutions to modern stress that invades so many of our daily lives. Stress Awareness Month is especially important to acknowledge this year following the global COVID-19 pandemic.
What Can Cause Stress?
Stress occurs when we’re faced with a situation that causes us to become anxious or frightened. It’s important to note that stress isn’t only a reaction to traumatic or major events, but it can also occur in response to small events or general uncertainty in situations. According to the American Psychological Association, the most common sources of stress as of 2017 included the future of our nation, money, work, current political climate, and violence and crime.
Stress During a Global Pandemic
While the sources listed above all remain significant stressors, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused stress levels to reach an all-time high for many people. Factors such as isolation, job loss, and fear of catching the virus and passing it to loved ones have created an environment in which stress seems to be a universal feeling at the moment.
Side Effects of Stress
Stress looks different for everyone, and it can manifest itself in a variety of different somatic and psychological ways. Some of the most common effects of stress include:
- Stomach pains and aches
- Nausea and headaches
- Increased heart rate and chest pain
- Elevated blood pressure
If stress continues long-term, it can lead to more serious issues such as heart disease, diabetes, anxiety, and depression. However, there are many steps you can take in helping to reduce your stress.
What You Can Do
If you’re experiencing stress, one of the best ways to first address the issue is to ensure that you’re taking care of yourself by getting plenty of sleep and taking necessary breaks. Exercise has also been shown to be an effective stress-reliever. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, try getting up and going for a quick walk to help clear your mind and get some fresh air. Don’t be afraid to reach out to others and share your concerns as well. If you feel unable to deal with stress yourself, ask for help from a professional, such as a psychologist or counselor, who will be more than willing to aid in alleviating your stress or anxiety.