April’s the 16th annual Stress Awareness Month and the perfect time to pause and think about what stress is, why and when it hits, and how to fight back for better health. Here are five things to know and think about:
1. Stress isn’t all bad. It keeps us on our toes, and provides a rush of energy, preparing us for action (physical or mental).
2. But - and it’s a big but - too much of it can have negative effects, leaving us feeling we’ll never get through all we have to do or able to cope with all we have to cope with. You might feel low, agitated or even aggressive as a result, unable to think straight or sleep. And you need to think straight and sleep well to tackle everything that’s on your plate.
3. Stress isn’t an illness in itself but if it isn’t controlled it can cause serious illnesses like high blood pressure, and heart disease. Getting it under control - and you can - will boost your immune system and feeling of wellbeing.
4. Getting it under control isn’t about getting rid of all the stress. We know that’s not always possible. But getting advice (about work, debts, relationship problems) and/or making a plan (re work load, budgets, time with family) is the first step to taking control of your worries.
5. You can help yourself today. Do one thing you enjoy every day - even if it’s just for half an hour (think a coffee with friends, a pamper bath, a favourite movie). Resist comfort eating and drinking (sweets, alcohol, fatty snacks) and go for healthier but tasty snacks (fruit smoothie, porridge with honey or syrup, favourite salad). And get active. Exercise releases feel good hormones called endorphins to help you sleep better and lower stress levels.