National Stress Awareness Day
OMG! Everything’s happening at once. The kids are late for school, the dog has tracked in a twenty-foot trail of mud and your boss just sent you a text to notify you that the noon presentation has been moved up an hour.
You suddenly feel like it’s becoming hard to breath and it’s all you can do to keep it together to get the children to school safely and not cause an accident due to the death grip you’ve applied to the steering wheel and the panic stricken sensations running through your body.
Run, your mind tells you, run!
Oh, but if it were only that easy.
Granted, going for a run can definitely be a great way to reduce or relieve stress, but it’s not really getting to the bottom of why you’re feeling that way in the first place.
Stress is something all of us face, and not just in a subtle manner.
A national poll done by NPR with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health finds that more than 1 in every 4 Americans say they had a great deal of stress in the previous month and half of all adults say they experienced a major stressful event in the past year. That works out to more than 115 million people, which some experts feel is really only the tip of the iceberg, because any poll, by default, is only going to represent what we’re conscious of.
What’s causing all this stress?
For one thing, work.
The third annual Work Stress Survey, conducted a poll and the results showed a marked increase from last year’s survey, which found that 73 percent of Americans were stressed at work. This year, that number jumped to 83 percent. Only 17 percent of workers said that nothing about their jobs causes them stress.
Apart from work stress, other top stressors include childhood trauma, death of a loved one, divorce, dealing with a chronically ill family member and personal relationships.
The answer, sadly, is not just to remove stress.
Of course, if there’s a situation in our lives that we can address, which is causing what feels like too much of it, we can certainly remedy it.
Speaking to the boss about your work load, leaving home earlier to avoid traffic causing road rage or having a heart to heart with your spouse about what’s been bugging you are all perfect examples of ways to handle fixable scenarios.
But the death of a loved one?
Or feeling enveloped in financial distress?
Not so easy to simply fix it.
So what can we do?
- Breathe, meditate, do yoga or just move! As yoga is a mind-body practice that combines stretching exercises, controlled breathing and relaxation, it can help reduce stress, lower blood pressure and improve heart function. No time to pop into the local studio? Try finding five minutes just to breathe. Yoga practice on the mat is only one of the eight limbs of a balanced practice and learning to simply breathe mindfully for a few minutes each day can elicit tremendous benefits.
- Eat well. When dealing with stress, the body frequently craves precisely the foods that will exacerbate the condition most, such as sugar or alcohol. “When they’re stressed, people go naturally to the wrong foods because they increase levels of the stress hormone, cortisol,” Heather Bauer, R.D., told the Huffington Post. “People tend to crave foods that are high in sugar and salt because those directly increase our cortisol levels. The blood sugar and insulin spikes that accompany the consumption of refined sugar can also lead to crashes, irritability and increased food cravings.”
- Help yourself, or get help. Journaling, taking time for yourself to focus inward and sort everything out or sharing a conversation with a trusted friend can be first steps to dealing with your challenges, and we all have them. But if you find yourself taking steps backwards or really having an overwhelming time, there is no shame in finding a professional who you can speak with. Better yet, seeking the council of a naturopath or functional medicine doctor who can also assess your eating regime and determine if holistic supplements may be in order would be the ideal scenario.
Perhaps most importantly, rest assured in the comfort that you’re not in it alone. Anyone who may appear stress free or claim they’ve not a care in the world is likely to have been through something at some point, which, in my opinion can often be the pivot point making us even stronger than we ever dreamed.
 “For Many Americans, Stress Takes A Toll On Health And Family.” NPR. NPR, n.d. Web. 04 Nov. 2015.
 Gregoire, Carolyn. “Work Stress On The Rise: 8 In 10 Americans Are Stressed About Their Jobs, Survey Finds.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, n.d. Web. 04 Nov. 2015
 “Top 10 Causes of Stress.” LIVESTRONG.COM. LIVESTRONG.COM, 16 Aug. 2013. Web. 04 Nov. 201
 “Stress Management.” Yoga: Fight Stress and Find Serenity. The Mayo Clinic, n.d. Web. 04 Nov. 2015
 Gregoire, Carolyn. “Food And Stress: 8 Of The Worst Picks For When You’re Feeling Anxious.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, n.d. Web. 04 Nov. 2015.