Does stress have you, well, stressed out? We understand! November 1st is National Stress Awareness Day! So, let's talk about what stress is, how it affects us, and ways we can cope.
The World Health Organization defines stress as a state of worry or mental tension caused by a difficult situation. The WHO also explains that stress is a natural human response that prompts us to address threats and challenges in our lives. Meaning, stress is not always a bad thing (Before you close the page, hear us out)! Imagine being chased by a leopard (not our great friend Leopold). Moments before you make the choice to either fight or flee, your body reacts. Your heart begins to race to pump blood to your arms and legs. Your breathing increases and your mind is much faster. These things happen without you having to tell your body to do them. Your body does these things to keep you safe. However, your body cannot differ between being chased by a leopard or taking a test, having a difficult conversation, or fulfilling obligations in life.
Okay, back to the leopard (the mean one). Let's say you get away from the leopard (whether that means you managed to run from it or fight it off), what happens next? Just because the stressor is gone, does not mean the stress is. The Cleveland Clinic lists a number of ways that stress can affect us, both physically and mentally. Chronic stress can also lead to people managing their stress in unhealthy ways, such as overeating or substance use.
So, we're stressed out, what can we do about it? Managing stress is more than just meditation and bubble baths (those things are still great by the way). Here are some other aspects of stress management.
- Prioritizing tasks so you are less overwhelmed
- Setting boundaries with people at work, school, or home (No is a complete sentence)
- Making time for things that give you fulfillment, this could be hobbies, spending time with loved ones, volunteering, or coming to the library (we love it here too).
- Reminding yourself of the things you can and cannot control (we can spend a lot of time stressing over situations that we have no control over)
Stress is an unavoidable reaction to stressors in our daily lives. In moderation, stress can help us accomplish tasks and meet deadlines. Too much, however, has a huge impact to our bodies and minds, as well as the people who love us. We hope these tips help you during the upcoming season.
If you are looking for a great read that dives deeper into the stress cycle, check out Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Emily Nagoski, PhD. and Amelia Nagoski, D.M.A.
Stress: Signs, symptoms, management & prevention. Cleveland Clinic. (n.d.). https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/11874-stress
World Health Organization. (2023, February 21). Stress. World Health Organization. https://www.who.int/news-room/questions-and-answers/item/stress#:~:text=Stress%20can%20be%20defined%20as,and%20threats%20in%20our%20lives.