April is stress awareness month, and has been recognized as such every April since 1992. Of course I’ve been recognizing my own stress since at least 1981!
I suppose a better title would be ‘Stress education month’, since that’s really the point. Stress is a constant in our lives, but there are moments when our stress level is elevated to the point that it begins to take a physical and mental toll on us. So how do we know when our healthy stress that motivates us to get things done, has accelerated to doing us more harm than good?
According to The American Institute of Stress (AIS), there’s a law of stress called the Yerkes-Dodson Law, that emphasizes the importance of stress and our reaction to it. If we have too little stress, we hardly react at all. If we have too much, our whole system of mind-brain-body freaks out and goes into overdrive. And if we continue to experience excessive stress on an ongoing basis, it could impact our physical health and mental health in a destructive way.
The main objective is to balance our stress levels, with the goal of having enough stress to prompt us into action, but not so much that it overwhelms us. That same AIS article states that one way to balance our stress is to focus on what is important to us. The idea being that if we are clear on our personal values, that will help keep us centered, and give our lives meaning.
Makes sense, right? And yet I still find it hard to do at times. It’s so easy to get caught up in deadlines, people pleasing, and other obligations that cause me to lose focus on where my priorities should be.
I did some internet surfing around on the best ways to manage stress and found a ton of information, exercises, anxiety pressure points… but I found the most straightforward breakdown of steps to take from the Mayo Clinic. It’s the 4 A’s:
AVOID the things that stress us out. Sounds obvious, but maybe think about it…
ALTER what we can not avoid. Manage our time differently, set boundaries, make time for us a priority. (Self-care Sunday?)
ACCEPT things that can not change. But seek help from others who can be a positive influence to help cope with the unchangeable. I know I’m often guilty of not reaching out when I should.
ADAPT by reframing, looking at the big picture, and maybe adjust our standards to the new norm. This is especially effective when perfectionism is starting to take over and stress us out.
These 4 A’s make a lot of sense to me, and I’m going to add them to my mental wellness routine. There’s a lot more information about stress to dive into, but the thought of researching more to add to this blog is, well… starting to stress me out. So I’m just going to leave it here.
Feel free to share any tips you may have on balancing the stress in your life. It’s something we all need to be aware of, through April and beyond. Take care ❤️
Images from Pexels, design by Deb Evans