November 2nd, 2022
National Stress Awareness Day falls on the first Wednesday of November every year – November 2nd this year. It’s a great opportunity to identify stressors in your life and reflect on how you manage them.
If you’re human, you’ve experienced stress. It’s an inevitable part of life that happens whenever we encounter change, real or potential threats, and illness. Stress doesn’t result solely from negative shifts, positive events in our lives can also be stressful. Our body’s stress response, also known as fight-or-flight, has been fundamental to our survival allowing us to react quickly to dangerous situations. Some stressors are short-lived, and we recover quickly from the effects. Other stressors are chronic, keeping our alert system activated.
When we’re exposed to long-term or repeated stressors our physical and mental health are impacted. Struggling to manage stress in effective ways can worsen pre-existing conditions and puts us at higher risk for experiencing depression, anxiety, heart disease, Type II diabetes, arthritis, addiction, and other diseases.
We can’t avoid stressful situations, however understanding our reactions to stress and learning more effective ways in building resilience to stress can help us better navigate the pressures, worries, and changes that life brings.
When we experience stress, a complex response occurs in our brain and body preparing us to react or retreat. There are 3 main actors in the stress response system:
This process helps us get through dangerous or stressful situations. Unfortunately, many of us face daily stressors that we can’t easily escape. When we’ve experienced trauma, high levels of stress during early development, or struggling to cope with everyday stressors in healthy ways, it’s hard for our system to regulate. Our body struggles to get out of alert mode, stress hormones build up, and the effects can have a long-term impact on our emotional, physical, and behavioral health.
Poverty, racism, discrimination, long-term illness, and interpersonal conflicts create significant stress for people. The American Psychological Association’s annual Stress in America Survey highlights current stress statistics and stressors our population is facing. This year’s survey showed that Americans are stressed about money more so than in the past, and 87% of adults feel like there have been relentless crises during the past two years. With multiple, repeated sources of stress, it’s safe to say we’re all experiencing some level of it regularly.
Chronic stress doesn’t just affect adults. Children and adolescents face chronic emotional and psychological stressors intensified by the pandemic, unlike those experienced in previous generations.
Most stressors we can manage and bounce back from. How do we know when it’s reached a harmful level? Here are some signs that you or a loved one might be experiencing chronic stress:
The International Stress Management Association offers an online stress screening which you can access here.
Understanding the benefits of stress management and implementing stress reduction methods can decrease symptoms and the overall impact on health and wellness. Here are some strategies and tips to better manage stress regulation:
If you’re feeling completely overwhelmed or that your stress is unmanageable, it might be time to consult with a mental health professional. While there are some stressors we can’t control, we can control our reactions to them. Therapy can help us learn to do that in effective and beneficial ways.
Written by: Carol Briggs, LPC, NCC
At Clarity Clinic, we have highly trained staff who specialize in therapy and psychiatry services. To learn more about how we can support your mental health, call Clarity Clinic at (312) 815-9660 or schedule an appointment today.
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