Stress …. Just thinking about it causes our body to tighten, our heart to beat faster and our breathing to become shallower. April is stress awareness month so it is the perfect time to talk about stress and identify strategies and resources we can use to manage it.
Since 2007, the American Psychological Association has been conducting the “Stress in America” survey and the most recent 2022 data is particularly alarming. We are in the midst of a mental health crisis that that has been fueled by Covid-19, war, and inflation. Arthur Evans, Jr., President of the American Psychological Association recently said that “Americans have been doing their best to persevere over these past two tumultuous years, but these data suggest that we’re now reaching unprecedented levels of stress that will challenge our ability to cope.”
This chronic stress is impacting our behaviors and our physical and mental well-being. People are less active, experiencing unwanted weight changes, turning to alcohol and other unhealthy coping strategies, experiencing more sleep disturbances, anxiety, depression, irritability, and strained social relationships. People with the highest levels of stress also experience more chronic disease and earlier death. Believe it or not we can combat many of the ill effects of stress by changing our relationship to it. Check out this TED talk by Stanford psychologist and lecturer, Kelly McGonigal, PhD to learn more about how to make stress your friend.
The National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) offers some helpful strategies for how we can manage out stress and Cigna and your college offer many wonderful resources to support you.