Take charge of your stress

Yes, stress is a part of life, especially right now. But that doesn’t mean you should give in to it — and its negative consequences. Make the conscious decision to destress — and enjoy a better quality of life.

Stress drains your well-being

Chronic stress takes a toll on your mind and body. More than three quarters of adults report having physical or emotional symptoms of stress, such as headaches, fatigue, or changes in sleep habits.1 Over time, stress can even increase your risk of developing depression, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and a weakened immune system.2

You can’t always avoid stress, but you can take steps to manage its effects — allowing you to live a healthier, happier life while enjoying a more fulfilling, rewarding career.

Make stress management a daily priority

Follow these recommendations from the American Psychological Association (APA)3 to handle stress in healthy ways:

  • Try to reduce the source of stress. Think about whether you can change the situation that is causing you stress. If your stress is work-related, consider shifting some responsibility or asking for help. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the coronavirus pandemic, focus on what you can control — follow recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and direction from your local authorities while taking things one day at a time.
  • Share your feelings. Strong social support can improve your resilience to stress. Reach out to friends or family members who are good at listening and sympathizing. Returning the favor when they need support can also boost your positive emotions.
  • Eat well. Chronic stress releases the hormone cortisol, which can cause fat and sugar cravings, but eating a healthy diet filled with a variety of fruits and vegetables will protect your health and give you the energy to deal with life’s challenges.
  • Relax your muscles. Combat the tension headaches, backaches, and fatigue often caused by stress with stretching, massages, warm baths, or progressive muscle relaxation.
  • Meditate. Mindful meditation can reduce stress and anxiety by keeping your attention in the present moment.
  • Make sleep a priority. Daytime stress affects nighttime sleep. And lost sleep affects daytime mood and cognitive function. For better sleep, get exercise during the day and keep a consistent sleep routine at night — give yourself time to wind down, avoid caffeine and alcohol in the afternoon and evening, and put your screen down before bedtime.
  • Get moving. Physical activity may not only reduce how stressed you feel, but may also cancel out some of the negative effects of stress, including the impact on your immune system. Try to take a brisk 30-minute walk or perform another preferred form of exercise every day.
  • Go outside. Research shows that time spent in nature improves mood. Even just going outside for a few minutes can help you feel better.
  • Do something for yourself. No matter how busy you are, try to fit in enjoyable activities, such as watching a favorite TV show, reading a novel, or listening to music. This is especially important if you’re finding yourself glued to media coverage about the coronavirus. Take a break and do something fun!
  • Change your thinking. Reframing your thoughts about a situation can help manage your emotions and reduce how stressed you feel. Set realistic expectations and don’t let worries spiral out of control.

It’s OK to ask for help

Last, but not least, on the APA’s list of stress management tips is “seek help.” Don’t insist on coping with stress alone. Nearly three in five adults say they could have used more emotional support last year.3 Your company may offer an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), which is a free, completely confidential resource available to you and your family members 24 hours a day. An EAP offers help with all types of stress and personal issues. And, your medical plan may be able to connect you with a behavioral health professional. Learn more about your benefits by exploring this website.

Stress less

Feeling stressed? Take a quick break from your day to uncover six proven ways to fight stress and feel happier.

Sources:

1APA’s 2019 Stress in America survey, www.apa.org.
2“Coping with Job Stress,” October 8, 2018, by the American Psychological Association, www.psychcentral.com.
3 “Healthy ways to handle life’s stressors,” November 1, 2019, American Psychological Association (www.apa.org).