International Stress Awareness Week
This first week in November is International Stress Awareness Week. The number of people who identify as being more stressed than last year is increasing. We are more stressed now than ever. A recent Gallup poll found that 55% of Americans feel stressed every day. That is 20% higher than the rest of the world’s average.
One international study published just this month reports that people who had a strong sense of meaning and purpose in their life were more resilient, especially in relation to Covid-specific stress. What are some things that give us a sense of purpose? Caring for someone who needs your help, an activity or hobby that is meaningful such as gardening or cooking, or being part of a group that connects you with others such as a service club or a church. So if you find yourself stressed don't do less, do more of what gives you a sense of purpose.
If you are stressed try deep breathing exercises. Deep breathing can relax your nervous system. Draw in a breath for the count of four and let it out for a count of four. Focus only your breath and let all other thoughts go. Focus on your breath from one to several minutes letting go any disruptive thoughts and feelings. This is a simple way to begin a stress management practice.
With COVID still disrupting how we live and the intensifying election propaganda, we need to intentionally make time for self-care. When you feel upset, stressed or angry your body is producing stress hormones. One way to bring this back into balance is exercise. Try taking a long walk in your neighborhood, Hike a nature trail, start a couch to 5k program. 30 minutes four times a week may be enough to take the edge off of your stress response.
Develop your creative side as a way to process your stress. Try drawing or painting pictures as a way to ground yourself and practice mindfulness. Write a poem about the things that are generating your anxiety and stress. Visit a local art gallery for inspiration. One treasure, the Cleveland Museum of Art has free entrance. Tap into your creative side. It is a powerful way to cope.
The Mayo Clinic says that one way to find stress relief is through spirituality. At its core spirituality helps to give your life context. It arises from your connection with yourself and with others, the development of your personal value system, and your search for meaning in life. For many, spirituality takes the form of religious observance, prayer, meditation or a belief in God. Spiritual practices help us make sense out of chaos and can help us navigate the most difficult life situations.
-Jerry Strausbaugh, EdD, LPCC-S, Executive Director, Appleseed Community Mental Health Center