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national stress awareness month - Amend Treatment

Healthy Ways to Manage Stress During National Stress Awareness Month

It’s no secret – as the APA points out, surveys examining contemporary mental health trends find that more Americans than ever are struggling with the long-term physical and mental consequences of chronic stress, and post-traumatic stress. Excessive stress is linked to a range of health issues, including heart disease, obesity, weakened immune function, anxiety, depression, and cognitive impairment. Being stressed out can actively worsen health outcomes while sick, increase the risk of infection, and exacerbate problems such as anxiety or depression.

On this National Stress Awareness Month, it is important to remind ourselves not to underestimate the daily impact that stress can have on our health, but also to take embrace the fact that we can affect and control our stress levels.

By adopting stress reduction techniques such as mindfulness practices, relaxation exercises, and seeking support, people can reduce their risk of chronic diseases, strengthen their immune system, enhance their mental resilience, improve their mood, and ultimately enjoy a higher quality of life. Let’s explore healthy ways to manage stress this month.

Where Does Stress Come From?

A healthy balance of stressors is a natural and important part of a person’s mental and physical wellbeing. Mentally, research shows that positive stress can help us improve our mood, sharpen our mind, and build confidence in our future endeavors.

But too much stress can have an adverse effect on both your physical and mental health. Limits for stress are personal. Some stressors erode us over time, while others can cause a sudden shock, such a traumatic experience.

Nowadays, people seem to experience excess stress on a daily basis – often from their own worries and expectations.

“The sources of stress I am seeing most often in patients today is the constant cycle of worrying about the future or the past in order to change their behaviors or habits in daily life,” says Shira Rebibo (LMFT), Clinical Program Director at Amend Treatment.

“Learning to regulate their emotions would allow patients to have the ability to do the things they need to do to reach their goals. Currently, many patients are working from the mindset of ‘If I do this, I can have this, and then I will finally be content/happy/finished’. This pushes them into increased stress which causes a roadblock for their goals.”

Addressing stress can be as much about identifying and working on the root causes of your external stressors, as it can be about mitigating internal stressors, and approaching your own thinking patterns with a healthier mindset.


Healthy Coping Strategies for Stress

“Mindfulness is what I believe to be the foundation of emotional wellbeing,” says Rebibo. “Without mindfulness, we would not be attuned to what we experience and our needs that come from our experiences. Mindfulness is a practice that anyone can utilize. It is certainly more challenging for some; however, it is essential to healing and working to decrease stress in your life.”

Mindfulness techniques can be taught and applied at home to regulate emotions, reduce acute stress, and improve mental resilience. Like other skills, it takes time to practice and improve your mindfulness – and there are many ways to train it.

Some therapists encourage people to try and imagine themselves from the outside looking in, or as an observer of their own situation. Others incorporate different exercises or media to practice mindfulness, such as drawing or journaling. A common thread, here, however, is the importance of approaching stress management through a structured plan.

“If we are standing on the mountain looking at a large hurdle, we can’t see anything else. The idea here is to take a step back, to observe the situation as a whole and to target the stressors you can work on changing.”

Exercise can be another powerful tool when dealing with stress – but consistency is crucial here, even more so than intensity. A recent study published by Health Psychology and Behavioral Medicine shows us that people derive much of the psychological benefit of exercise through moderate, or even low-intensity activities, when scheduled at least thrice a week.


When Should You Consider Professional Help?

While therapeutic techniques and regular physical activity can help manage stress, it’s also important to recognize when enough is enough.

“When stress is overbearing and tasks start to feel more challenging than they were previously, it may be helpful to have some support to help guide you in a more emotionally healthy direction. Therapy can support you in your journey to living a more effective and less painful life.”

Whether through your personal or professional life, stress eventually gets to us all. Compassion fatigue, loss of interest or motivation, decreased quality of sleep, irritability, poor mood, or professional burnout – when it’s too much to handle, and the bad days start to outnumber the good, it’s important to consider support.

Learning to manage stress includes knowing when to ask for help. Friends and family play an important role in helping us stay anchored amid a rocky situation, but there is no substitute for a structured and individualized therapy plan.

“In therapy, we work to create S.M.A.R.T. goals to help clients target larger struggles they feel overwhelmed by,” Rebibo says. “We often want to work to problem-solve the situation, which is why I believe stressors we cannot effectively address impact our emotional state so drastically. Working to validate your experience and better understand where the emotions may be coming from may also allow you to regulate your emotions, to make more mindful decisions.”


National Stress Awareness Month at Amend Treatment

National Stress Awareness Month this year serves as a reminder of the impact of stress on our mental and physical health. While a healthy level of stress can be beneficial, too much can do serious harm.

It’s crucial to adopt stress reduction techniques to mitigate the negative consequences of stress, such as practicing mindfulness and incorporating regular exercise. But it is also important to know when to seek professional help.

By addressing stress proactively, people can improve their mental resilience, and ultimately lead more fulfilling lives. Learn more about effective stress management techniques and therapeutic exercises for mental resilience through our programs at Amend Treatment.

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