April is National Stress Awareness Month, a time where health professionals work to increase awareness about stress and how it affects our health. It’s also a time to think about how we experience and manage stress in our own lives. To get a handle on stress, it’s important to understand what it is, how it affects us, and what we can do to manage it when it comes up in our lives.
What is Stress?
Stress is any physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual event that causes a reaction in your body. Sometimes this reaction is very manageable and we can move through the event with minimal emotional impact. But there are times when all of us experience stress at an unhealthy level and in ways that make it difficult to function. The cumulative effect of too much stress can take a toll on your life, and that’s what we want to avoid.
How does stress affect our lives?
Stress is one of the major risk factors for illness, although not everyone is aware of the degree to which this is so. Excessive stress can affect our blood pressure, increase fatigue, weaken our immune system, increase anxiety, and cause us to feel more irritable and on edge.
Working to reduce stress in your life can pay huge dividends in terms of saved time, saved money, improved health, and better relationships. Most of all it can create a more peaceful, comfortable mental environment.
What’s the biggest misconception people have about being stressed?
Many people, when they feel stressed, also feel guilt and shame —as if they should be able to “handle” things without feeling stressed. It’s really important to understand that stress is simply a natural part of life, not a reflection of you as a person or a sign of weakness.
Once we accept that we aren’t “less than” for feeling stressed, we can begin to show ourselves the compassion we need to manage it and create balance in our lives. Ultimately, managing stress is about restoring our emotional, physical, psychological, and spiritual equilibrium. We can’t restore that balance until we accept that stress is a normal part of being human.
What can you do if you’re “too busy” to carve out time to manage stress?
It can sometimes feel intimidating to even think about making time to manage your stress while you’re feeling overwhelmed. The truth is, any small step you can take to reduce stress will have a big impact in your life.
Even if you have only five minutes, you can sit in your car, or at your desk, close your eyes, and practice 5 minutes of deep breathing. A recent Stanford University study found that deep breathing can actually change your mood by signaling your brain that it’s time to relax. Those five short minutes can mean the difference between moving through the rest of your day stressed or relaxed.
My book, The Rewired Life, offers practical, down-to-earth tips for how to manage stress that are accessible to everyone. Whether you have five minutes or an hour a day, you’ll find something in it for you.
ERICA SPIEGELMAN is a counselor, consultant, author, and motivational speaker who has made an indelible mark in the field of addiction recovery. She has founded a multi-media health and wellness platform, providing consulting and counseling solutions for clients by providing them with tools on how to reach emotional, mental and physical freedom. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Literature from the University of Arizona and a degree as a California State Certified Drug and Alcohol Counselor (CADAC-II) from University of California, Los Angeles. Erica works with several treatment centers in California, including the Living Rebos Treatment Center, Klean Treatment Center, and Passages Malibu. She is a regular contributor to online health outlets, writes for Maria Shriver, and and hosts her own weekly show Rewired Radio on RadioMD. She is the author of the best-selling book Rewired and her latest book The Rewired Life.
Visit Erica online for resources, signed books, and more: http://ericaspiegelman.com/