April is the month of Stress Awareness and if anyone is likely to feel stressed out, they are probably a caregiver! The focus this month is to be aware of your levels of stress. It sounds simple, but when you feel stress, getting into the habit of noticing helps you manage it better, understand your triggers and improve your overall health. After all, if you don’t know when or how it happens, you can’t improve something.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU ARE STRESSED?
Stress affects both your body and mind. If your body is under stress, it thinks it’s like a near – miss accident in a danger situation. Your heart rate, blood pressure, and levels of glucose increase under stress. It suppresses functions that are not needed to respond to hazard, such as digestion and the immune system.
Long – term stress can cause or exacerbate a wide range of diseases, including headaches, stomach problems, and depression. The risk of severe conditions such as stroke and heart disease also increase with stress.
Unfortunately, the difference between “real” danger and daily conflicts and concerns can’t be told by your body. Rushing because you are running late, arguing with a relative, worrying about paying for care and supplies, or feeling pressure to look after everything that causes stress.
Try one of these techniques for a quick cooldown when stress strikes:
- Change the environment …. do something pleasant or relaxing for a while like reading, watching television, or taking a shower. If you’re at work, get some fresh air for a few minutes.
- Breathe exercises …. focus on your breath, pushing aside all other thoughts. Be aware of the breath coming in and out; focus on the inhalation and exhalation sensation.
- Meditate …. This does not mean sitting on the floor with your leg crossed and burning incense. Really, meditation is about calming the mind. Not reacting; merely noticing. It can make a difference even for a minute.
- Pray …. Often, a comfort can be one’s faith. It can be calming to say a small prayer or series of prayers.
- Do relaxation exercises … Sometimes referred to as progressive muscle relaxation, practice tensioning, and then release each of your muscle groups. You can’t be stressed if your body is physiologically relaxed.
- Get out and get going …. exercise can be a great reliever of stress. It helps you to blow off steam, releasing endorphins. Take a walk or run. This will give you some perspective so that you can come back to a new mindset.
- Practice a rhythmic activity …. Walking or running are great rhythmic activities that will adjust your focus and ease your stress. You can drum with your hands or a few pencils on a table as well.
- Immerse yourself in a creative outlet …. It can take you away from the stress at hand by doing something creative that you enjoy like cooking, baking, art or photography. Cooking or baking, for example, requires focus, concentration, and physical activity — especially when you make bread or roll out dough.
- Express your feelings …… write away your stress on paper, start a journal, remove your colored pencils and paper, focus on drawing, or have coffee with a trusted friend and just talk.
- Be with one of your senses at the moment …… sight, smell, sound, and taste — you’ll be amazed at how quickly the stress melts away when you focus on just one of them. Eat something you like and savor every bite. Breathe in your favorite scent and light a scented candle. Listen to and take in a wonderful piece of music. Look at something beautiful that makes you stop and stare in your surroundings.
Marketing & Assistant Executive Director
Cherry Creek Village