Did you know that April is Stress Awareness Month? Established in 1992, Stress Awareness Month is meant to increase general awareness about the causes and effects of stress, and how to manage stress in your everyday life. Not all stress is bad, though – so it’s important to know about good stress and bad stress, the effects of stress, and how you can manage it.

What is Stress?

Most people define stress as something negative, or the strain or tension that occurs when your personal coping strategies are strained – but there is also something called eustress, which is good stress like winning a race, or dating someone new. Both good stress and bad stress can cause physical effects like a jittery stomach, skin issues, and headaches. The problem is when the bad stress becomes chronic; this can have serious effects on the immune system and your physical health.

Effects of Stress

Stress can affect your mind, your body, and even affect your behavior! Chronic stress can cause side effects like:

  • Headaches
  • Muscle tension
  • Impaired sex drive
  • Upset stomach
  • Sleep problems
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Overeating or undereating
  • Excessive use of alcohol
  • Social withdrawal

By using healthy coping tools to manage stress, you can stay healthy and combat stressful situations. Things you can do include:

  • Get regular physical activity, even if it’s a daily walk around your campus or neighborhood
  • Practice relaxation techniques like yoga or deep breathing
  • Find the humor in things
  • Make an effort to stay connected with family and friends, even if you don’t feel like it
  • Don’t forget to do things you enjoy, like reading, listening to music, or a favorite hobby

Basic things you can do to help minimize the effects of stress on your life include trying to get enough sleep. Pulling all-nighters or staying up late to finish work might seem smart in the long run, but the body needs sleep, which is restorative to the body and mind (check out our blog post about sleep here). Eating a healthy, varied diet rich in fruits and vegetables will also boost your immune system and provide your body with the nutrients it needs, as well as help you to feel your best. Avoid or minimize smoking cigarettes, excessive alcohol use, excessive consumption of caffeine (I know, this is a tricky one), and illicit drugs.

If you’re having difficulty with everyday activities or falling behind in your work, or having trouble getting out of bed and functioning, see your doctor. You might need help from a professional to help you manage stress. There is nothing wrong with this and there is nothing to be ashamed about. A professional counselor can provide you with tools to manage stress and ideas for incorporating healthy strategies into your life.

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