International Stress Awareness Week is a major annual event focusing on stress management and campaigning against the stigma associated with stress and mental health issues. It was established in 2018 to raise awareness about stress prevention. The highlight of the week is Stress Awareness Day, established over 24 years ago in 1998.
One of the most important aspects of human connectivity is our ability to rally together and fight health conditions that affect us. Creating awareness for important days like International Stress Awareness Day helps us come together in fundraising efforts to not only create awareness but also offer support. This year’s theme is “Working Together to Build Resilience and Build Strength” and is aimed at raising the profile of stress awareness, expanding publicity on what stress is and how to prevent it, as well as promoting the importance of mental well-being for individuals.
Stress is a natural (hormonal) response from the body in the face of danger. When you are stressed, the body assumes you are under attack and releases a mix of chemical substances and hormones that prepare the body for physical action usually referred to as “fight or flight”. When this happens your blood flow is directed only to the most important muscles, your blood pressure rises, you experience a sudden boost of energy, and unnecessary bodily functions such as digestion are temporarily shut down. These physical changes can be short-term and are unlikely to cause any major health concerns.
Acute short-term stress has symptoms that disappear quickly under stress management or once the danger has passed. However, you are at risk for numerous health effects once you start developing stress symptoms over a long-period of time. Experiencing stress over a couple of days, weeks or months can extend to your body and your mind, as well as affect your emotional well-being. Stress may even lead to an inflammatory response in the body, which has been associated with numerous chronic health issues.
It is important to manage your stress levels before they develop into more serious health concerns. Stress cannot be avoided altogether, but you can manage it by changing your attitude towards it and identifying the root cause. Knowing your stress triggers helps you manage them better in the future. Significant life events like buying a house, having a baby or even getting married could be causes for stress, but other factors like work, financial problems, relationship difficulties and health issues could be the root cause for your stress.
You can effectively manage stress by performing diaphragmatic breathing, getting regular exercise, eating an Omega-3-rich diet, meditation, going on regular holidays, and having a healthy attitude. This could include offering to help others and keeping yourself motivated.
When you are feeling stressed it’s important to reach out for help by asking for support. You can talk to a person you trust about your concerns and how you’re feeling to help you cope through your stressful period. Should you feel too overwhelmed you can also consult your doctor who can refer you to a professional counsellor or psychologist.
When dealing with stress it is easy to abuse substances to make you feel better, it is best to avoid drugs and alcohol as they can create additional
problems and increase the stress you’re already feeling. Creating awareness for days like International Stress Awareness Day helps us rally together in support of one another. The recent pandemic has caused an increase in mental health issues, particularly loneliness and grief, but stress awareness does not mean one should wallow in these negative feelings. Being aware of your stress allows you to be alert of the health consequences and helps you make better choices for yourself and your loved ones.