April Is Stress Awareness Month

April 21, 2020

April is Stress Awareness Month. Isn’t it ironic that this year the month of April is also all about coping with the COVID-19 pandemic.

We all experience stress at times. But during a pandemic, stress can be an unavoidable part of day-to-day living. So, this is a good time to think about the things that cause us stress. And, more importantly, it’s a time to consider ways to manage our own stress and help those around us manage theirs.

Risk and uncertainty, including the special precautions called for in preventing the spread of the Coronavirus, can and do add to our stress. And that’s on top of all the usual causes of stress, including childcare and other family responsibilities, financial worries, and our normal responsibilities at work. Although one or a few highly stressful days won’t compromise your health, weeks or months of stress can.

Manage the Stress in Your Life

While we can’t eliminate the things that cause us stress, we do control how we deal with our stress. Be willing to be flexible and creative in how you respond. Remember, how you respond is your most important tool for managing stress. Here are some ways to start:

  • Accept the reality that, in much that happens, you are not in control; not being in full control is okay;
  • Stay calm in situations that you cannot change;
  • Focus your energy and creativity on those things you can control, namely, your own actions and feelings; what makes you feel calm and grounded? this is not always easy and may take some practice, but it pays off in peace of mind;
  • Aim to develop and live by your own vision for healthy living, wellness, and personal growth; and set realistic goals to help you realize your vision.

Making Space and Time to Unwind

One key ingredient is making time for things, even little things, that bring personal enjoyment and relaxation. Set aside some time out of your day—even if it’s only 10 to 15 minutes—to take care of yourself. And remember, exercise is an excellent, natural stress reliever.

Everyone finds different ways that work for them to relax and unwind. Here are a few proven ways that can help busy staff during breaks and time away from work and family responsibilities:

  • Take breaks during a shift when you are able – break times are included during a shift for an important reason: they help you stay safe, focused, and effective in your work;
  • Get the nutrition, hydration, and sleep your body needs;
  • Dust off and use coping strategies that have worked for you before;
  • Try to find time for physical exercise;
  • As much as possible, develop a routine or rhythm to your life that works, and stick to it;
  • Make room in your daily or weekly schedule for regular activities that help you feel grounded, such as meditation, prayer, reading;
  • Limit the amount of time you invest in following the news or worrying about the things you can’t control;
  • Stay in touch with family and friends, even if that means conversations over the Internet or phone;
  • And, finally, if you begin to feel overwhelmed or discouraged, reach out to a friend or co-worker for support; remember, we’re all in this together and are here to help one another.

While none of us can eliminate stress, we can manage it through the ways we choose to respond to it. The pay-off for all of us – during Stress Awareness Month and every month – is a healthy, balanced life that keeps in perspective the challenges, uncertainties, and stressful situations we are living with.

For more helpful information on self-care during the Pandemic, visit the Manage Stress tutorial on the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services website.

We also want to remind you there are available resources in our Employee Assistance Plan (EAP) through Unum.   To access services such as assistance with mental health and wellness resources along with counseling, child care, elder care, legal questions, financial services and debt management; even assistance with reducing medical and dental bills, and more, please call toll free 24/7 1-800-854-1446 or go to www.unum.com/lifebalance

Sources: IlluminAge Communication Partners and the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Federal Occupational Health (www.foh.hhs.gov).