What do these physical reactions have in common? Sleeplessness, stomach pain, jaw clenching, dizziness, and headaches. If you answered, “they’re all stress-related symptoms,” you’re right. Chances are you’ve experienced one or two of them in the last few years -- if not the last few days or hours.
According to the “Stress in America” poll conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA) in early March 2022, Americans are experiencing unprecedented levels of stress. The APA reports that the ongoing pandemic, inflation, and the war in Ukraine are some of the biggest current stressors. Results from the APA poll reflect just how stressed Americans are right now:
- 87% of respondents report feeling fatigued and overwhelmed emotionally
- 65% said that money is a significant source of stress
- 63% report feeling that the pandemic has forever changed their lives
April is Stress Awareness Month. It’s been recognized since 1992 to increase awareness of the causes and treatments for stress. Given the widespread stress levels in American adults and children right now, it’s important that everyone understand what stress is, what causes it, and how to cope with it.
Three types of stress
First, know that stress is a natural, biological response to situations that might be risky or dangerous. We all experience stress from time to time, and it’s not always a bad thing. Stress can sharpen your focus, give you the drive you need to meet a goal, and keep you in the moment when you’re playing sports or giving a big presentation. But when stress takes over your mental and physical state and bouts of stress become more regular or even constant, you may have a problem.
There are three types of stress:
- Acute stress – this is the most common type of stress. It comes on quickly, is short-lived, and is usually related to a traumatic event or incident like an accident or sudden death of a loved one.
- Episodic acute stress – this type of stress occurs when someone experiences frequent incidents of acute stress. People suffering from episodic acute stress often seem to be living in crisis and chaos.
- Chronic Stress – the most serious level of stress, chronic stress is the sense of being overwhelmed over a long period of time. It can have serious mental and physical impacts if left untreated.
What’s got us so stressed?
We all experience stress differently. What’s stressful for one person can be motivating for another. But there are common situations that cause stress in most people:
- Lacking work-life balance
- Being a victim of a crime
- Living with a chronic illness
- Going through a divorce
- Dealing with family disputes
- Surviving a man-made or natural disaster
If you or a loved one is experiencing stress due to these or other causes, there is help and hope. The first step is to recognize the condition. Most people can recognize mild or moderate stress and take measures to reduce stress on their own. But if stress is serious and persistent, seeking help from a behavioral health specialist is wise.
Try these stressbusters
You can manage low-level stress and even prevent it by using these stress-busting strategies:
- Make time for fun
- Maintain your social connections
- Start a meditation practice
- Unplug from digital devices for a little time each day
- Take a walk in nature
Don’t forget the fundamentals. Getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, and nourishing your body are all important for managing stress.
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