Stress Awareness Month is recognized every April, but we can safely say more people have been aware of their stress this past year than ever before. Chronic stress can be extremely damaging to a woman’s mental, emotional and physical health, so it’s important to know how to manage it well.
Many psychologists and health experts have studied stress for decades and given tips on how to deal with it in a positive and healthy way. Ultimately, our goal at All About Women is to make our patients aware of how much stress they have and how it’s affecting their health.
Stress awareness started in the workplace in the 1970s because about 60 percent of people admitted to being stressed at work, but it soon expanded to include all types, places and situations where we feel stress. Then in 1992, April was declared Stress Awareness Month.
According to the American Institute of Stress, 55 percent of people are stressed on a daily basis and 83 percent have work-related stress. Also, women are generally more affected by stress than men.
5 ways stress impacts a woman’s health
Stress can impact just about anything in your body if you sustain a high level of stress for too long. Here are 5 common health conditions that can either be caused or aggravated by chronic stress:
1. High blood pressure
Prolonged stress can raise your heart rate and blood pressure. If left unchecked, it can increase your chances of heart attack and stroke—particularly if you have a family history of heart disease.
2. Anxiety and depression
Mental health has been a major problem through the pandemic, and stress has a lot to do with that. Women tend to feel the effects of stress more easily than men and can suffer from panic attacks, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), suicidal thoughts and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).
3. Headaches and migraines
High stress can cause regular headaches or migraines in a lot of women. When you’re stressed, your muscles usually tighten (particularly in your neck and shoulders), which causes tension in your head.
4. Stomach and digestion problems
Stress often impacts your stomach first. Even 1 stressful day can lead to upset stomach, diarrhea or nausea. If stress continues, you may begin to experience more serious conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
5. Difficulties with menstrual cycle and conception
Stress tends to affect your hormones, which in turn can throw off your cycles and also make it more difficult for you to get pregnant. A lot of women who are stressed about getting pregnant are actually hurting their chances because of the stress.
How to better manage your stress (tips)
Figuring out how to effectively manage your stress (especially during these uncertain times) is vital to keeping your mental and physical health strong. Here are some activities and tips that can help with stress management:
- Exercise. Regular exercise is one of the best ways to combat stress. Moving your body activates endorphins, which help you feel happier and better. If physical exertion is difficult for you, even simple stretching exercises can help relax your muscles and your mind.
- Eat well. Even though it may make you feel better in the moment to eat junk or comfort food when you’re stressed, ultimately, it’ll do more harm than good. Instead, fill yourself with fruits and veggies high in B vitamins. Researchers have found that vitamin B helps to reduce stress in your body.
- Focus on your breath. Breathing deeper and slower helps your body relax and also sends more oxygen to your brain, which allows you to let go of stress and tension.
- Take time for yourself. Even though it can be difficult to find ways to get out right now, just taking a walk around your neighborhood or finding a quiet place to read a book can help relieve stress. Regularly getting some “me” time is very healthy for your mental and physical health.
- Get sleep. Sometimes this is easier said than done, but making sure you’re getting enough sleep every night is extremely important. Lack of sleep causes a lot more stress, anxiety and depression to build up.
- Journal. Writing your thoughts down on paper can often help you let go of things that are causing stress.
- Talk to someone. Simply having a conversation about what’s causing your stress with a trusted friend, family member or counselor can help alleviate that stress. Sometimes, they can even offer some helpful solutions to problems you may have.
- Consider medication. There’s no shame in admitting you need more help than what of the above activities can offer. Many people need to take daily medication to level out hormonal imbalances or other issues that stress can cause.
If you’re experiencing chronic stress levels that are affecting your life and health, talk to your doctor right away. Stress doesn’t have to control your life. Make an appointment with one of our caring physicians at All About Women today to discuss your options and answer any questions you may have.