Maine Families

April is Stress Awareness Month

While every parent experiences some level of stress in their daily lives, many folks in Washington County are feeling even more overwhelmed these days. After the brutally cold temperatures, icy roads, and mountains of snow we faced this winter, we are more than ready for Spring to show up around here — yet we all know that means a wicked mud season is about to be heaped upon us. Add all that to our daily challenges and stress levels for some people can reach extreme levels pretty quickly.

The American Psychological Association states that while low to moderate levels of stress can be good for you when managed in healthy ways, extreme stress takes both an emotional and physical toll on the individual.

They point out that if you don’t get a handle on managing your stress you can face illnesses ranging from fatigue to heart disease and obesity.

Below are some tips to help you think about where your stress levels are and some suggestions for taking action to help you cope:

Understand how you stress. Everyone experiences stress differently. How do you know when you are stressed? How are your thoughts or behaviors different from times when you do not feel stressed?

Identify your sources of stress. What events or situations trigger stressful feelings? Are they related to your children, family, health, financial decisions, work, relationships or something else?

Learn your own stress signals. People experience stress in different ways. You may have a hard time concentrating or making decisions, feel angry, irritable or out of control, or experience headaches, muscle tension or a lack of energy. Gauge your stress signals.

Recognize how you deal with stress. Determine if you are using unhealthy behaviors (such as smoking, drinking alcohol and over/under eating) to cope. Is this a routine behavior, or is it specific to certain events or situations? Do you make unhealthy choices as a result of feeling rushed and overwhelmed?

Find healthy ways to manage stress. Consider healthy, stress-reducing activities such as meditation, exercising or talking things out with friends or family. Keep in mind that unhealthy behaviors develop over time and can be difficult to change. Don’t take on too much at once. Focus on changing only one behavior at a time.

Take care of yourself. Eat right, get enough sleep, drink plenty of water and engage in regular physical activity. Ensure you have a healthy mind and body through activities like yoga, taking a short walk, going to the gym or playing sports that will enhance both your physical and mental health. Take regular vacations or other breaks from work. No matter how hectic life gets, make time for yourself — even if it’s just simple things like reading a good book or listening to your favorite music.

Reach out for support. Accepting help from supportive friends and family can improve your ability to manage stress. If you continue to feel overwhelmed by stress, you may want to talk to a psychologist, who can help you better manage stress and change unhealthy behaviors.

Click here for more information on the American Psychological Association’s website.