April is Stress Awareness Month, and you might wonder, “Why do we need THAT?” It’s pretty obvious when we’re stressed out… right?
The reality is we don’t always recognize the variety of situations and circumstances that create stress. And that’s why Stress Awareness Month is a good idea. Because the first step to dealing with stress is knowing what causes it — it’s not the same for everyone, and it might not be as obvious as you think.
Stress is defined as “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.” It’s easy to recognize adverse situations as stressful. Late to work because of traffic? Yes, we’d say that’s adverse and stressful. Trying to mediate between fighting family members? Definitely adverse, demanding and stressful! Dealing with a challenging coworker every day and getting nowhere near a peaceful resolution? Check. These are all examples of negative stressors (events or circumstances) that create negative stress.
Take a look at the definition of stress again: tension that results from adverse or very demanding circumstances. Stress is not solely defined by adversity or negative events. It’s also linked to being in a demanding situation. In fact, the following events tend to be fairly demanding, which means they would qualify as positive stressors in anyone’s life:
"Wait," you might say, "Those are wonderful things! Those things create joy!" We’re not disputing that. But let’s be honest for a second. Sometimes the best things in life also put us in very demanding situations. That’s not a bad thing, it’s just a fact of life. We can’t always control when or how things happen (well, maybe you can control how many people are invited to that birthday party).
What we can control is our personal reaction to stressors, a.k.a. how we handle stress. And the best way to start is by knowing what sets you off. What creates stress in your life—positive or negative—and how can you better manage your response?
Pay attention to what stresses you out over the next week, and make two lists: negative stressors and positive stressors. You might start to see a pattern: how many of those events are outside of your control, versus decisions or activities that you create yourself (running into traffic because you dawdle on the way out the door)?
Knowing WHERE your stress comes from is the first step. From there, you can reduce its harmful impact on your health and well-being by minimizing exposure and changing your response. These videos about managing and coping with stress are a great place to start.
If you’ve learned ways to take control of your stress response, let us know. We’d love to hear your story.
Next time anger, disappointment, fear, or anxiety threaten your mood, take a pause. Then, take a few minutes to try one of these research-based methods for retraining your mind to stress less.
To boost medication adherence, there are plenty of apps and products geared toward helping you remember to take your meds—from simple “days of the week” pill boxes to digital reminders, these prompts help those who struggle with medication schedules, especially if multiple meds are involved. But what if memory and organization aren’t the real issues for you? Although recalling medication instructions is an important part of adherence, that’s not the only reason people might feel challenged when sticking to a medication. Here are some other possibilities that you might experience...
Most patients feel that time crunch that comes with doctor visits—as soon as the physician walks through the exam room door, the imaginary stopwatch begins. This highlights the need to be as efficient as possible in addressing your needs, getting your questions answered, and communicating important health info like medication side effects or making sure your medications are still working or needed. Here are five strategies for making your next visit more effective...
Behavior scientists have made exciting discoveries in recent decades about how we can help ourselves build the habits we desire. It isn’t “one-size-fits-all,” and different techniques work for different challenges. But research supports that habit change resides inside your mind. And that experimenting with techniques like these are where to begin...
Just imagining a stressful event or situation may make your heart beat faster, your palms sweat and your mind kick into high-alert mode. But what if that stress response isn’t always bad? What if it can actually be beneficial? And what if there is actually a difference between a good stressor and bad stressor? Researchers are finding that there is more to the story than you might expect from all the bad press about stress.
Medicine isn’t perfect. For every breakthrough that cures a disease (or makes it easier to live with one) there are many more treatments that only help a little. And there are many more that may have no effect or that may actually cause a particular person more harm than good. So, it’s important to approach any decision that affects your health, or the health of someone you love, with eyes wide open.