I think most Americans would agree that stress has become a normal part of everyday life, especially given the current circumstances surrounding COVID-19. 

Whether you’re a kid who’s stressed about looking cool in front of your friends, a student who’s stressed about making good grades, an adult who’s stressed at work, or a parent who’s stressed by the busyness of trying to juggle several activities, stress can manifest in almost every facet or season of life. And if stress goes unchecked or unnoticed, it can have undesired affects in our lives. 

Stress isn’t always a bad thing. It’s our body’s natural, physical response to “being attacked.”

Without stress, we wouldn’t survive dangerous and life-threatening situations. However, trouble arises when our bodies go into a state of stress in inappropriate situations. When blood flow is going to our muscles to elicit a “fight” or “flight” response, then brain function is minimized which can lead to an inability to make rational and informed decisions. Also, symptoms of stress can start to manifest physically and can result in headaches, fatigue, upset stomach, depression and even heart problems.

According to the American Institute of Stress, about 90% of all visits to primary care physicians are for stress related disorders, ranging from stomach trouble to heart disease. Additionally, job related stress costs American businesses about $150 billion a year.  

More than half of Americans say that they fight with friends and those they love because of stress, and more than 70% say that they experience real physical and emotional symptoms from stress. 

While stress can be triggered by a myriad of things, and is dependent on the person, stress is most often caused by a person’s job or by sudden changes in one’s personal life. However, stress can also be caused by our feelings and emotions, such as fear and uncertainty, attitudes and perceptions, unrealistic expectations, and change. 

During the month of April, we can combat stress by choosing to observe National Stress Awareness Month. National Stress Awareness Month was first launched in 1992 with the intent of highlighting causes of stress, the negative effects stress can have on the mind and body, and how to relieve stress. Taking the time to manage stress and to take care of yourself is invaluable. 

While stress cannot be entirely avoided, it can be managed and combated. Since each person’s stressors are different, various methods can be used to lessen stress on a daily basis. 

However, some common stress management techniques include meditation, spending more time with supportive friends and family, exercising, and eating healthy. 

Experts also suggest slowing down and taking the time to do something you love, such as taking a walk, reading a book, or having a cup of tea. This April, instead of letting stress dictate your life, become aware of your triggers and begin to make small changes that can have a lasting impact on your health and happiness. 

Sarah Gold is a TSET Healthy Living Program Specialist.

The Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET) serves as a partner and bridge builder for organizations working towards shaping a healthier future for all Oklahomans. TSET provides leadership at the intersections of health by working across the state, by cultivating innovative and life-changing research, and by working across public and private sectors to develop, support, implement and evaluate creative strategies to take advantage of emerging opportunities to improve the public’s health. TSET. Better Lives Through Better Health.

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