April has been designated Stress Awareness Month by the Health Resource Network (HRN), a non-profit health education organization.
Stress Awareness Month has been held every April, since 1992.
It is a nationwide effort to inform people about the dangers of stress, harmful misconceptions about stress that are prevalent in society and encourage successful coping strategies.
"Even though we've learned a lot about stress in the past 20 years," says Dr. Morton C. Orman, M.D., Founder and Director of HRN, "we've got a long way to go. New information is now available that could help millions of Americans eliminate their suffering."
Stress results when something causes the body to behave as if it were under attack.
Sources of stress can be physical, such as injury or illness.
Stress can also be mental, such as problems in marriage, job or family. Some sources of stress are never going to go away, no matter what you do.
Having diabetes is one of those.
For persons with diabetes, stress can affect blood sugar levels in two ways.
First, people under stress may not take good care of themselves. They may drink more alcohol or exercise less. They may forget or not have time to check their glucose levels or plan good meals.
Second, stress hormones alone may raise blood sugar levels.
Diabetes support groups can help reduce the stresses of living with diabetes.
Knowing other people in the same situation helps you feel less alone. You can also learn other people's hints for coping with problems. Making friends in a support group can lighten the burden of diabetes-related stresses.
Individuals who have diabetes can take control of their health.
Diabetes education is available locally.
To find a diabetes educator in the area, contact the Upper Peninsula Diabetes Outreach Network at 1-800-369-9522 or online at diabetesinmichigan.org.
Individuals may also be able to ease their stress levels by using their senses.
A pleasant sensory experience can help fight stress by encouraging relaxation and boosting morale, reports the American Counseling Association.
Experts at the American Counseling Association offer the following suggestions:
- Sight. Explore things that please your eyes and calm you. Look out the window at the trees, browse through a photo album, wear favorite clothes or accessories, read a passage of vivid imagery, improve your living space by cleaning or decorating, visualize a peaceful color.
- Sound. Find music that calms or energizes you, whether it be recordings of nature sounds, book readings, chanting, or your favorite band. Use a white noise machine to mask irritating noises. Sing, read aloud yourself, or play an instrument. Indulge in the peaceful experience of quiet.
- Smell. Refreshing, relaxing scents can help. Find and use your favorites. Lavender and cooked apple tend to calm, lemon and peppermint tend to energize. Explore aromatherapy. Seek lovely scents in cleaning, cooking, gardening, candles, and lotions. Olfactory memories can comfort (your grandmother's soap, a tree from childhood).
- Taste. Try a favorite comfort food. It may be oatmeal for one person and burritos for another. Savor slowly. Comfort food is not about quantity but quality.
- Touch. If you've ever had a massage, you know tactile experiences can relax you. Exchange hugs with loved ones, take a bath or shower, fiddle with beads or stones, stroke your pets, play with clay, walk in sand or soft grass, hug a pillow or stuffed animal, wear clothes of your favorite textures, feel the wind or rain on your skin, brush your hair, get or give a massage.
The American Counseling Association also recommends using the Four-Hs for long-term stress relief.
- Heart. Try things that make your heart feel happy. Connect with others and act with kindness. Think of it as investing rather than wasting time. Find people and communities for social support, playing and sharing. Slow down and do things mindfully rather than multi-tasking. Laugh at least three times a day, Smile often.
- Hands. Helping is a powerful spirit-lifter. Both people and Nature need your help. Pick up litter, volunteer, assist sick friends, fix something. Creativity also soothes. Try a craft (knitting, carving, origami), play with blocks, cook, write a poem, make up a song.
- Health. Address both wellness and problems, physical and mental. Find forms of exercise you enjoy and do them often. Nurture your sexuality. Get enough sleep and good nutrition. Reduce or eliminate intake of caffeine, tobacco, alcohol and recreational drugs.
- Holy. Explore the spiritual side of life according to your own inclinations. Some people find organized religion quite meaningful as a way to reduce stress. Others find great inspiration in spiritual practice, ethics, nature or social justice activities. Try music, readings, meditation, prayer or retreats that help you connect with what is holy to you.
One stress antidote may not help you at all, or may help one time but not the next.
Don't give up. Some remedies take more time to have an effect than others, some are harder to use, and some just won't suit you.