IDAHO — April is National Stress Awareness Month, and if you're feeling stressed out a little bit more lately, you're not alone.
A Harris Poll revealed 84% of U.S. adults felt at least one emotion associated with prolonged stress in January. The American Psychological Association reports the most common feelings were anxiety, sadness, and anger.
As we're now more than a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, you've probably felt at least one of those emotions over the last few months. So how can you know when it's time to seek professional help to deal with it all?
Dr. Sheila Giffen, Executive Medical Director of the Saint Alphonsus Health Alliance, says you should realize is that stress is actually a normal reaction at first.
"But, over time, stress can cause some more chronic symptoms such as headaches, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, maybe some rapid heart rates, stomach issues, irritability, depression, difficulty sleeping, and many more symptoms," Dr. Giffen explains.
One of the key steps to de-stressing is acknowledging stress to begin with.
"The first step is to realize that we're feeling stressed so take a minute and recognize those symptoms," says Dr. Giffen. "Then take a couple deep breaths and assess the situation. What is it about this time period that I can control?"
Dr. Giffen says the pandemic in particular has been a great source of stress, and while we can't control how other people feel or deal with the pandemic, we can control how we protect ourselves.
That includes actions like wearing a mask, social distancing, and getting a COVID-19 vaccination.
"Having a little bit of control can help us feel less stressed," she says.
Dr. Giffen also suggests learning resiliency skills to help you in the long-term versus de-stressing at the moment.
"Resiliency is really about bouncing back from a stressful situation. We've all been practicing those skills over the past year in the setting of a pandemic," says Dr. Giffen. "We can build resiliency through stress reduction techniques. Healthy lifestyle, sleeping, exercising, healthy eating, and tapping into our friends and family for support."
With more Idahoans and adults across the country getting their COVID vaccine, life is slowly starting to become a little more normal. Still, even with a return to a sort of normalcy, that can also become a stressor.
"Anytime we have a change, whether it feels like it's a good change, can cause stress," says Dr. Giffen. "What we want to do is, again, tap into those resiliency techniques that we have learned and then maybe even get a health check from your provider and plan for it. Plan for that stressful period and know what you're going to do."
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