Stress Awareness: Swapping Bad Habits for Good Habits…

April is annual Stress Awareness Month, a thirty day period in which our country’s health care professionals and health promotion experts will join forces to raise awareness about the causes and cures for the constant stress problems our citizens are facing!

Here is few helpful tips for coping with the stress in your life!

What NOT to do…

I am definitely guilty of resorting to unhealthy coping mechanisms for stress, and unsurprisingly they really don’t help! Things to avoid when you’re feeling stressed include:

  • Withdrawing from friends, family, and activities.
  • Procrastinating, or wasting hours on the internet or on your phone!
  • Filling up every minute of the day, to avoid facing problems.
  • Sleeping too much.
  • Shifting the blame, or taking it out on others.

So, step one in coping with stress is to replace some of these unhealthy habits with healthy ones. What you SHOULD do…

  • Research has shown that socializing and building connections with people helps improve your mood and boosts brain health. Having support and encouragement from others helps us feel confident and happier. Exercise, even of the low-intensity kind, helps to lower frustration and clear the mind of stress, while producing endorphins to lift the mood.
  • Good time management can be a huge help in reducing feelings of stress. We all feel stressed when we feel a lack of control over the events in our life, so by being organized with our time we are regaining our sense of control. We need to realistically evaluate how we use our time, and then cut down on activities that are not productive (such as being on our phone/on the internet too much!) Set priorities, make lists of things that are essential and things that could wait, or that could be cut out.
  • Avoiding dealing with stress means the underlying problem- and therefore the stress it causes- will never go away. Think about what causes you stress. Is there a way you can alter the situation? Maybe you have been bottling up your emotions and you need to express them? If you don’t face your feelings and be honest about them, the stress will continue to mount up. If your problem involves another person, you may need to be willing to compromise in order to find a happy middle ground. Creating a balanced schedule will also help you to avoid burnout- remember you need time to relax!
  • Stress can cause us to sleep too much- and as that phrase suggests, oversleeping is detrimental to our health! It is recommended that adults get 7-9 hours of sleep a night. Sleeping more than 9 hours a night can increase the risk of diabetes, weight problems, depression, heart problems, and even premature death! To adjust your sleeping habits, try changing a few parts of your routine. Firstly, avoid hitting the snooze button on your alarm! It takes self control, but set your alarm for a realistic time, and get up right away. Putting your alarm on the other side of the room may help, so you actually have to get up to switch it off. Open your curtains, let the light in, and look forward to your day, feeling positive! Try to make your sleep schedule regular- go to bed and get up at the same time each day, you could even set a reminder to get ready for bed at a certain time. Avoid caffeine and electronics for a few hours before bed.
  • Accepting responsibility for the part you play in your own stress will help you gain control. Blaming others will only increase the negative feelings and the stress, but accepting accountability will bring relief. Try thinking about it objectively- as if you’re an outsider looking at the situation. What has really caused the stress? What is your role in it? How could you alter the situation?

All of us should take the time to look at our life, examine our stress, and try to swap bad habits for good ones. Stress Awareness Month is a great time to start! On the next blog post I’ll be discussing bad eating/drinking/pleasure-seeking habits that stressed people may develop, and how we can swap those for healthy ones!