Be kind to your mind — learn how to lower stress
How often do you experience stress? Daily? Weekly? According to Statics Canada, 23% of Canadians over 15 find most days ‘quite a bit’ or ‘extremely’ stressful.
Stress can come from major life events, such as getting married, having a baby or switching careers, or minor incidents like burning the toast, getting stuck in traffic, or having your computer freeze just as you were completing a lengthy document.
Stress affects us all in different ways. It's important we know the factors and the effects in order to help ourselves and each other reduce stress and the associated risks.
Good and bad stress
Stress can be good and bad. Winning a game, going on a vacation, even preparing for a presentation at work can give us a natural high and quick boost of energy. On the other hand, greater worries like financial problems, job loss or illness can lead to more negative lasting effects.
Stress is known to cause stomach aches, insomnia and depression, and contributes to unhealthy behaviours such as smoking, over-consumption of alcohol, and poor eating habits. But did you know it carries risks of long-term health consequences like heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, or even immune and circulatory complications?
There are many ways of dealing with stress that can lower your risk. The following strategies are recommended by the Government of Canada and the World Health Organization.
Minimize your risks
Identify the problem. What is causing your stress? Is it your job, a relationship or another source altogether? Once you know your stress triggers, you can work on a solution.
Note: A survey by the American Psychological Association found the five most common stressors were money, work, family, economic outlook and relationships.
Take control. Depending on the source of your stress, this might mean talking with your manager, a health professional or a financial counsellor. Once you’ve identified and start to deal with the factors contributing to your stress, you will ease the pressure on yourself.
Connect with others. Having another person for support is always better than facing problems on your own. Letting a family member, friend or work colleague know you are having a difficult time may help you in two ways. First, simply by expressing your feelings, you will relieve stress. Second, they may offer solutions to your problem.
Exercise. Physical activity is a great way to reduce tension. Whether you're a jogger, cyclist our just like to take long walks, be sure to get some fresh air and exercise and stick to a daily routine of fitness — along with good food and fun.
Pause. Breathe. Reflect. Tension meditation and progressive relaxation are techniques that encourage deep breathing and stretching your whole body can help silence the mind and take the pressure off.
Disconnect. Even though we live in a highly wired, 24/7 news cycle world, you don’t have to always “be on”. Unplug and unwise at least an hour a day. Instead of staring at a screen, watch a sunset.
Take a mental holiday. By reading, taking up a hobby or becoming involved in sports, you can take you mind off of stress. It will also give you distance from your problems and a different perspective, helping them feel easier to solve.
Go easy. Stress can contribute to negative thinking. Stay positive, be flexible, be kind to yourself and be realistic. There are some things you cannot change. Look for practical solutions.
Once you have lowered your stress level, there are ways to help prevent it from building up again.
Make decisions. Worrying about making a decision only causes more stress.
Don’t delay. Develop a weekly schedule that includes a combination of to-do items and leisure activities.
Delegate. Let others take on some of your tasks. You do not have to do everything on your own.
Stress Awareness Month
April is Stress Awareness Month in Canada, an event that has extra significance in 2021 as the global COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt our lives. Stress is a normal and understandable response to this global health and economic crisis. We invite you to mark this month by taking the initiative to reduce your stress or help someone reduce their own.
Remember: You may be apart from loved ones, but you are not alone. If you are overwhelmed by stress, don't be afraid or embarrassed to ask for professional help.
Review your personal benefit plan or talk to your human resources representative about the mental health services and supports that are available. Most benefit packages include coverage for mental health counselling from a licensed practitioner, either online or in-person.
If you are a member of a Medavie Blue Cross plan, visit our dedicated page to mental health resource, including our Online Doctors, Digital Therapy and Employee and Family Assistance Program services.
Need More Info?
Learn more. In addition to health professionals who specialize in stress, there are many helpful books, films, videos, courses and workshops available online to help you learn stress management techniques.
For more information on stress, contact: