While April is dedicated as Stress Awareness Month, April 16th (the day after taxes are due) is set aside as a day to reflect on how stressed you have become. Stress has many negative effects on both physical and mental health, so to help you cope with both tax and finals season we have compiled two lists: one to help you identify if you are stressed, and another to help you reduce and deal with stress.
Common Signs of Stress
While many people identify being stressed with mental symptoms, there are multiple physical and behavioral signs that may also indicate you are stressed.
- Muscle Pain/Tension
- Chest Pain
- Stomach Upset
- Sleep Problems
- Lack of Motivation or Focus
- Feeling Overwhelmed
- Irritability or Anger
- Sadness or Depression
- Overeating or Under-eating
- Angry Outbursts
- Drug or Alcohol Use
- Tobacco Use
- Social Withdrawal
How to Manage Stress
Chronic stress has been linked to numerous health risks, including but not limited to cardiovascular diseases, obesity, gastrointestinal issues such as GERD, and mental health problems. Because long term stress can be so dangerous, we have included strategies for managing stress.
- Avoid Caffeine, Alcohol, and Nicotine
Caffeine and nicotine are both stimulants, meaning that they will mimic and increase the feeling of stress. Alcohol is a depressant in large quantities, but can act as a stimulant in larger quantities, making in ineffective for managing stress.
- Participate in Physical Activity
When you are stressed, your body increases specific hormones in your body- adrenaline and cortisol included. These hormones contribute to your bodies fight or flight response, and can leave you feeling jittery and anxious. Since modern problems are not often remedied by a flight or fight response, physical exercise can act as a surrogate in order to metabolize excess hormones and make you feel calmer.
- Try Relaxation Techniques
Meditation or repeating a self-affirming mantra are both techniques that have been shown to help reduce stress. A part of why relaxation techniques are so useful is that they focus on slowing down and clearing your mind. Try sitting comfortably in a dark room and focusing on your breathing for a few minutes each day.
- Talk to Someone
Talking can help distract you from the object of your stress, or help you reduce tension by venting about what is bothering you. Additionally, stress can cloud your judgement, so getting a second opinion from an unbiased person can help put things in perspective.
- Take Control
Stress can be trigged by seemingly impossible problems. A technique that may help is writing down the problem and any possible solutions you can come up with- no matter how silly or improbable. Determine your best solution and write down the steps necessary to make it happen. Breaking down a problem and making it more manageable can make it seem not so stressful.
- Learn to say “No”
Many people feel overwhelmed when they don’t have enough time to complete everything they need to do. Instead of taking on additional responsibility, learn to say “No” when you have reached your limit. It may be helpful to practice in a mirror or with friends or family. Another solution if you are uncomfortable with rejecting people is to come up with some preprepared phrases to let people down easily.