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April is “Stress Awareness Month”

Many people struggle to manage stress in their daily lives. Between work, family, and financial burdens, life is full of various pressures that often result in feelings of anxiety. And with the modern world’s fast pace and interconnectivity, people are probably even more prone to stress now than in days past.

While daily pressures affect most everyone, some folks face much higher levels of stress due to their professions or other individual circumstances. For example, family caregivers and healthcare professionals are particularly vulnerable. These two groups of people are charged with caring for others’ health and safety, which is a major responsibility.

While nobody can eliminate stress from daily life, people can take actions that will help them better manage it. And that’s what “Stress Awareness Month” (April) is all about. Here are 7 actionable tips anyone can follow to better manage stress and improve their physical and emotional well-being!

  • Stay Active – Most people know exercise improves physical health, but activity also has emotional and psychological benefits. Exercise releases endorphins that literally make people happier and euphoric. While many people think they must run a marathon to experience a positive “rush,” research shows even light exercise can trigger endorphins.

Today’s work-from-home culture has many benefits, but it has also created new challenges for folks trying to stay active. Without the need to commute to an office, some employees now stay indoors for days on end. Fortunately, creative solutions abound. For example, a highly-stressed worker can dramatically improve her mood simply by squeezing in short walks during lunch breaks.

  • Get Outdoors – While regular exercise is proven to improve physical and mental health, outdoor activity is particularly beneficial due to sun exposure. In other words, sunlight itself can have a dramatic effect on mood and well-being beyond exercise itself.

Sunlight positively affects the body’s chemistry, improving mood, energy levels, and general feelings of happiness. So, while it’s good to hit the gym for exercise, people should remember to get outdoors too. Thirty minutes of cardio is certainly great for staying fit, but that hike in the hills might have a bigger impact on mental health!

  • Eat Healthy – Good nutrition overlaps with activity and exercise in promoting health and overall well-being. A proper diet increases energy and promotes sound sleep. And research shows that someone who refrains from abusing substances, such as alcohol and tobacco, will have lower anxiety levels.

People can realize the benefits of healthy eating without taking dramatic actions. Minor changes in diet can prove quite consequential. Anybody can take the first step toward good health by consuming more fruits and vegetables while simultaneously reducing salt, sugar, carbohydrate, and fat intake.

  • Think “Worst Case Scenario” – Mental wellness is an often-repeated but critical theme in any discussion on stress. Physical health is important, but a person’s state of mind dramatically affects his anxiety levels. Sometimes a family caregiver or healthcare professional can reduce stress simply by teaching his mind to view problems through the prism of “worst case scenario.”

For example, a person who was recently reprimanded by his boss might re-play the event over and over in his mind, fretting over the impending consequences. But was the dispute really as bad as it seemed? Those who objectively analyze their problems like an outsider–free of emotion–often find things don’t seem so ominous. Having an angry boss isn’t fun, but it usually doesn’t result in firing. So, is the “worst case scenario” really that bad?

  • Lean on Friends & Family – Some people with stressful jobs, such as healthcare workers and caregivers, attempt to carry the weight of the world on their shoulders. But most have trusted friends and family who can share the burdens. And these folks are typically happy to lend a helping hand to their loved ones.

Communication is key, as is realistically assessing one’s own breaking point. A stressed healthcare worker or caregiver must learn to notice signs of his or her own burnout before the pressure reaches critical mass. And once people determine their stress has hit an unacceptable level, they need to talk with loved ones and ask for their help. Perhaps a sister will agree to supervise the kids, allowing for a much-needed “date night”!

  • Take Time Off – Mental fortitude is a commendable trait, but strong people must realize everyone has their limits. Pretending to be “Superman” or “Superwoman” is a bad policy for physical and mental well-being. Ultimately, all people succumb to unstainable stress levels, and the consequences are serious.

Healthcare workers and family caregivers, specifically, must make time for themselves. Days off are critical to one’s health, and there’s no substitute for a good vacation. Nightly video games or salon appointments may take one’s mind off work temporarily. But most people require several days of true vacation to really separate from their jobs and experience relaxation.

  • Leverage Technology – Some components of modern society have increased stress levels, such as 24/7 email alerts, weekend calls on mobile phones, and a general interconnectivity among people. But technology has also provided tools to make our lives easier and reduce stress.

People should remember to neutralize today’s increased pressures with new conveniences. Perhaps a mobile phone results in night and weekend work calls. But that same device can make dinner easier by providing access to food delivery services. And a phone app that transcribes voice messages into email might empower one to screen afterhours calls without engaging every caller.

Finally, family caregivers and healthcare workers can also reduce stress by leveraging personal emergency response solutions (PERS) that help keep vulnerable loved ones and patients safe. PERS technology, such as LifeFone, provides a “virtual safety net” for seniors and at-risk folks via fall/emergency response alerts and other features. In fact, these affordable and versatile tools can provide even greater peace of mind with “on-the-go” functionality for people who venture outside their homes!

Final Thoughts
Stress has probably been a part of people’s lives since the beginning of humankind. And while it’s not a new phenomenon, it’s fair to say modern technology and culture have likely increased daily pressures.  Fortunately, most folks in high-stress roles, such as healthcare workers and family caregivers, can take simple steps to reduce anxiety. And the same tools that contribute to stress (mobile phones, email, etc.) can also be used to combat it!

If you’re caring for a vulnerable loved one or patient, be sure to call LifeFone today to learn about affordable emergency response solutions that improve their safety and reduce your stress!

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