Stress Awareness Month

Written by Portia Hines, LPC.

Although stress is a very commonly used word in today’s culture, oftentimes there is no discussion surrounding it. We typically just hear a proclamation that it is present, ie.“ I’m so stressed”. Since April is Stress Awareness Month, we want to provide some insight on various ways that stress can show up in the lives of both students and adults, as well as highlight ways to manage or cope with stressors as they come our way.

Let’s start with a functional definition of this commonly used word. Stress can be defined as feelings of emotional or physical tension. it can come from any event or thought that makes you feel frustrated, angry, or nervous. Using this broad definition it is easier to understand how everyone may experience stress differently. Some of us become anxious and need to move around when we feel stressed, while others withdraw and want to be alone. Yet, some may experience an increased heart rate, upset stomach, or even headaches. A student experiencing increased stress may ask to use the restroom more frequently than normal, request to see the nurse, or have an increased number of absences. Staff may begin to avoid coworkers, begin showing up late to work, display signs of overall frustration, and also become more frequently absent from work

By now you may be asking, what is happening biologically that causes these responses? Well, our bodies view stress as an indication of danger. So, it responds by producing stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones give us the ability to quickly defend ourselves or get away from perceived danger. When there is no immediate resolution to the perceived threat, our bodies will continue to send us distress signals. Prolonged stress can have the following negative effects:

– Trouble falling or staying asleep
– Digestive issues
– Anxiety & Depressive symptoms
– Weight gain/loss
– Memory loss
– Mood swings
– Mental cloudiness

So what can you do to mange the stress?

Set boundaries: If you know when you have enough on your plate, you can give yourself the space and time to complete things before adding more.

Eating a healthy diet: By eating well-balanced meals, we give our bodies the fuel that’s required to stay energized and capable of processing stress.

Establishing good sleep habits: Practicing mindfulness techniques, monitoring your sugar and caffeine intake, and setting a regular bedtime can help you sleep even when stressed.

Get up and move: Be sure to stand, stretch and move around several times a day even if you are in a classroom or office setting. By moving the body we increase the oxygen supply to the brain, help blood circulation and engage our body’s natural waste elimination system.  

Make time to spend with friends and loved ones: Just like the body produces stress hormones when we are in danger, it produces “feel-good hormones” when we are in a caring and supportive environment.

Ask for help: If stress is negatively impacting your life it’s ok to ask for help. Your School Counselor, 

School Nurse, primary care physicians, or local mental health professionals can all provide you with referrals and resources to help you manage your stress.

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