April is a grab-bag month. It starts with the sneaky pranks of April Fool’s Day and then—in the Pacific Northwest, at least—becomes either soggy mud-fest or gorgeous postcard of cherry blossoms and snow-capped mountains. But whatever the weather, stress won’t quit. Work, family, bills, healthcare, education…they’re all a source of stress. But April is also Stress Awareness Month and a good time to take stock of how stress impacts your body. If it brings pain, mobility issues, or flare-ups from past injuries, reach out to Dr. Chani Henderson at Family & Sports Chiropractic Clinic for help.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) acknowledge that “Managing stress is an essential component of a healthy lifestyle. Knowing how to manage stress can improve mental and physical well-being as well as minimize exacerbation of health-related issues. It’s critical to recognize what stress and anxiety look like, take steps to build resilience, and know where to go for help.”
If everyone is constantly stressed, what’s the big deal? Especially long-term, it elevates hormones in the body which trigger physical, emotional, and behavioral symptoms, say experts at the Cleveland Clinic. You may experience chest pain, racing heart, exhaustion, poor sleep, headaches, dizziness, digestive issues, and a weakened immune system. Those under extreme stress are also prone to overeating, gambling, or the use of drugs, alcohol, and smoking as band-aids on the real problem.
The Stress Management Society explains that “Stress Awareness Month has been held every April since 1992 to raise awareness of the causes and cures for our modern-day stress epidemic. It is the time when we have an opportunity for an open conversation on the impact of stress. Dedicated time to removing the guilt, shame, and stigma around mental health. To talk about stress, and its effects and open up about our mental and emotional state with friends, families, colleagues, and professionals.”
Each year they create an activity which helps maintain awareness of your personal stress levels and looks at how to overcome them. For 2023’s 30-Day Challenge, they’ve provided a workbook of daily physical, mental, and emotional activities which can help build healthy habits for life. There is also a printable Daily Destressing Planner and content which focuses on the workplace.
And then comes the digital detox. Creating dedicated tech-free zones in your life is important. Doctors at the Cleveland Clinic explain that “Americans spend an average of four hours watching TV and about seven-and-a-half hours on digital devices. Unsurprisingly, so much screen time is stressing many of us out.” After a digital or social media detox, folks find they have sharper focus, less stress, better social interactions, and more control over their time. “Doing a digital detox is about taking charge of how you spend your time and energy and what you give your attention to. It helps you realize what you want more and less of so you can break unhelpful habits and create new, more meaningful ones.”
Not sure about your personal stress level? Mental Health America (MHA) created a sixteen question Stress Screener to help. It addresses diet, exercise, activities, and an array of physical and mental symptoms. As experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) remind us, “Fear and anxiety can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions. It’s important to take care of your family and friends, but it should be balanced with care for yourself.”
The CDC suggests:
- Taking breaks like yoga, music, gardening, or hobbies
- Finding ways to connect with supportive family and friends
- Get moving: exercise reduces fatigue, anxiety, and sadness
- Eat healthy
- Get plenty of sleep
Think of it this way. There are four happy-inducing chemicals in your brain. Serotonin is a mood stabilizer. It comes from being outside or getting a massage. Dopamine, the reward chemical, is boosted by listening to music or practicing mindfulness and meditation. Painkilling endorphins are triggered by laughter, hot baths, and (yup, it’s true) chocolate. The love hormone is oxytocin. You find this through yoga, petting your pets, spending time with friends, cuddling your sweetie, and telling someone how much you care. Now THAT’s the kind of homework we can do with a smile.
Let Dr. Henderson join you along your stress awareness journey. Give her office a call at 360.254.0400 or book an exam online today. You don’t have to live with the aches and pains of stress. This April, take charge and face the month with a smile (and maybe allergy medication for all the pollen).