Stress Awareness Month: What is Stress and How Do You Relieve It?

Stress Awareness Month: What is Stress and How Do You Relieve It?

Apr 20 2022

April has been recognized as Stress Awareness month since 1992. While some stress is healthy, it’s important to know how to relieve stress and when to seek help.

Addressing the topic of stress seems even more relevant this year as we mark the two-year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic and experience additional stressors with economic concerns and violence across the globe in Ukraine and in our own backyard in Grand Rapids.

According to a recent poll conducted on behalf of the American Psychological Association, the top sources of stress in the country were increased costs for everyday items (87%), supply chain issues (81%), global uncertainty (81%), invasion of Ukraine (80%) and potential retaliation from Russia (80%).

What is stress and why is important to talk about?

Everyone experiences stress at some point in their life. Stress is the physical or mental response to an external cause. It can be a positive or negative event in your life, for example a marriage, divorce, new job, etc.

Stress in and of itself is not a bad thing. It can sometimes help to motivate or change our behavior. However, unmanaged chronic stress may have a negative impact on your physical and mental health.

The good news is that there are healthy ways to help reduce your stress levels. While there is no one size fits all solution with it comes to stress relief, trying some of the below suggestions may help.

Ways to manage stress in a healthy way:

  • Exercise
  • Eat healthy foods
  • Practice good sleep habits
  • Do breathing exercises such as 4-7-8
  • Relaxation techniques such as progressive muscle relaxation, mindfulness, or meditation
  • Write in a journal
  • Listen to music
  • Laugh
  • Seek the support of your loved ones
  • Set goals and priorities – identify what needs to be done and what can wait
  • Participate in an activity you enjoy
  • Avoid using drugs or alcohol to cope

There are also several apps like Headspace or Calm available for stress reduction, mindfulness, and meditation. If you’re a Priority Health member, you have free access to myStrength, a mental wellness tool to manage stress and bolster mental health.  Members can access the tool through their member account.

When to seek additional help

Consider seeking additional support from your provider or mental health professional if your stress begins to interfere with your daily life or you start to avoid things you used to enjoy.

If you’re a Priority Health member, there are mental health and substance use disorder professionals available to help – you don’t even have to call your primary care provider first.  Just be sure to have your membership card nearby to verify your coverage. Call 616.464.8500 or 800.673.8043, Monday through Thursday, 8am to 5pm or Friday 9am to 5pm. All calls are confidential.

Not a Priority Health member? Check with your health plan provider or call 211 for statewide support in Michigan.  Learn more here about the Michigan 211 crisis services available to you statewide.