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April is National Stress Awareness Month

April is National Stress Awareness Month

Bill Van Valer

Did you know that April is National Stress Awareness month?  Is it stressful to keep track of what each month is?  I’m stressed out because I missed April 16th, which is actually the official “Stress Awareness Day” (that would have been a great day to publish this blog…)

Stress, as defined by is “a physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension and may be a factor in disease causation.”  That make it sound pretty bad, but we have to keep in mind that there are several types of stress and not all of them are bad for us.

Eustress, or “Good/Productive Stress”, is the type that is fun or exciting.  Like skiing, bungee jumping or hurrying to meet a deadline.  This type of stress is actually good for us and can make us more productive or bring about change that is needed.

Chronic, or “Bad/Toxic Stress”, is the type we have to be careful of.  This is the stuff that we let take over our lives and that in turn can lead to physical and emotional health concerns.  According to, as many as 90% of doctor visits are for symptoms that are at least partially stress related!  Wow, it seems like we should do something about this, but what?  There are a few things that keep showing up in our research of how to deal with stress.

  • Meditation, Yoga, or just plain old deep breathing.  Anything that can activate your body’s relaxation response-putting your body in a calm place.  We’re not talking about a trance for hours on end, just some time being still and reflective.  There is also research that shows standing up and stretching at your desk for a couple of minutes every hour is a good way to deal with stress.  Our therapists are always talking about stretching, and when I walked in the break room the other day I had to step over one of our therapists yoga mats and blocks.
  • Healthy Lifestyle choices to reduce stress in the first place.  Be sure you are eating wisely and getting plenty of exercise and sleep.
  • Stay in the Current Moment.  This is a great way for us to stay positive in our thinking and remember that we can’t go back in time, but we can effectively deal with the present.
  • Massage.  according to the American Massage Therapy Association studies show a simple 15 minute trigger point massage can result in a lowering of blood pressure and heart rate.  They also share with us that 40% of Americans get a massage for stress relief.  The Massage Therapy Journal published an article in the Spring 2003 citing a lack “tactile stimulation”, or touch, was a reliable predictor for a sluggish response system in animals.  In other words, animals that were touched more often handled stress better.

Stress is something we all experience, and it is a very real problem.  No one thing will work for everyone, but it is always nice to hear others ideas and thoughts, so if you have a method of coping with stress that you have found to be helpful please share it with us in the comments section or on our Facebook page.

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