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National Stress Awareness Day

November 7th, 2012 - 10:55 AM

Are you constantly stressed out? You are not alone! According to a 2011 survey by the American Psychological Association, 22% of Americans reported “extreme” stress. And if you’re moving soon, I’m sorry to say that moving is listed at the top of the list of life’s most stressful events (along with marriage, divorce, and the death of a loved one). On a daily scale, the leading factors of stress are money, work, and the economy (job stability)—things I’m sure we’re all very familiar with.

But, there’s good news! There are things you can do to proactively lower the levels of stress in your life—even if you’re moving. If you’re tired of dealing with stress, today’s the day for you! November 7th is National Stress Awareness Day.

Why National Stress Awareness Day?
If 22% of Americans suffer from “extreme” stress, there’s certainly a need for a day of awareness!  It was founded in 1992 by the Health Resource Network, and is organized by the International Stress Management Association. Are you one of the estimated 1 million Americans who call in sick to work each day due to stress-related reasons?

If so, here are some things you should know about stress:

  • Stress is linked to the six leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, liver cirrhosis, and suicide.
  • Stress is linked to obesity and depression.
  • High levels of stress can contribute to an accumulation of abdominal fat, due to the stress hormone, cortisol.   
  • Stress has been called the “silent killer” because it can lead to chest pain, an irregular heartbeat, and high blood pressure.
  • Stress can cause hair loss.
  • Chronic stress is hard on your body. It can cause sleep disturbances, skin problems and more.
  • Your body can’t tell the difference between big and little stressors. To your body, stress is stress.
  • According to Sperling’s Best Places, in 2011 the most stressful cities to live in America were Detroit, MI; Jacksonville, FL; Miami, FL; Las Vegas, NV; and Tampa, FL.

When stress occurs, only 29% of Americans say they do a good job of managing or reducing it. Let’s take a look at some best practices for relieving your stress:

  • Move Around. While you’re at work do whatever you can to get moving; whether that’s walking around a walking trail, taking a trip around your building, or walking to the break room. And if you have the choice between taking the elevator or the stairs, take the stairs every time.
  • Stay Active. Once the clock strikes 5 and you’re off work, be sure to stay active! Instead of spending the night on the couch watching TV, go to the gym, go for a run, or spend time outside with your kids playing a game of basketball. Anything to keep you moving.
  • Consider a pet. Studies show that pets are great stress reducers. According to Health Behavior News Service, compared with human support, the presence of pets is associated with lower perceived and actual responses to stress.
  • Laugh. Watch at a funny YouTube video! There are tons out there to choose from! Laughter can lower the levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, in the blood. 
  • Build a garden. Gardening can actually reduce high stress levels. There’s something about enjoying nature that helps to replenish our minds.
  • Read a book. According to the Telegraph, just six minutes of reading is enough to help you de-stress. The study says you’ll experience a slower heart rate and muscle relaxation.
  • Call someone you love. Sometimes talking about your stressors with someone who’s willing to listen makes a huge difference—and it helps you put things into perspective.
  • Write it down. Keeping a journal is a proven way to relieve stress. It gives you an opportunity to sit quietly with your thoughts and reflect.  
  • Eat Chocolate. Just make sure it’s dark! A clinical trial published online in ACS’ Journal of Proteome Research found that eating about an ounce and a half of dark chocolate a day for two weeks reduced levels of stress hormones in people who felt highly stressed.
  • Turn it off. While smartphones are meant to make our lives easier, they can actually increase our stress levels. Turn the phone off and do something else that doesn’t involve technology at all (like baking cookies, decorating your mantle, or washing the car).
  • Get enough sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per day in order to have a healthier (and stress-free) lifestyle.

If you are experiencing extreme stress and need help, non-profit organizations like helpguide.org are available to provide assistance. If you have a child or teenager experiencing stress, the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry offers tools to help.

What are the things you do to reduce stress? Let us know by commenting below!
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