In case you haven’t noticed, we sure love a reason to celebrate. Every month in the calendar is filled with real (and made up) holidays and observances that promote various causes and special interests. Some were even created specifically to support businesses. April is the national month for more than fifty causes and special interests. These observances offer something for everyone, ranging from Autism, American Cancer Society, and Women’s Health Care to Amateur Radio, Fresh Florida Tomato, and Pets are Wonderful. For more information on April causes or to view other observances for the coming months, visit sites such as National Day Calendar and Holiday Insights.

One observance in the month of April that resonated with us is Stress Awareness Month. Let’s face it: we are overworked, overscheduled and on sensory overload with smart devices integrated into every aspect of our lives. Stress can build up over time and have adverse effects on our health: heart disease, depression and a weakened immune system which can open our bodies up to other diseases. This month, health care professionals nationally and internationally are joining forces to increase public awareness about the causes of stress and arm us with methods of coping with our modern stress epidemic. Here are some tips from The Mayo Clinic on ways we can manage or relieve the stress in our lives:

  • Get Active: Even if you’re not an athlete or you’re out of shape, exercise can still be a good stress reliever. Physical activity can pump up your feel-good endorphins and other natural neural chemicals that enhance your sense of well-being. Exercise can also refocus your mind on your body’s movements, which can improve your mood and help the day’s irritations fade away. Consider walking, jogging, gardening, housecleaning, biking, swimming, weightlifting or anything else that gets you active.
  • Connect with Others: Social contact is a good stress reliever because it can offer distraction, provide support and help you tolerate life’s up and downs. Take a coffee break with a friend, email a relative or visit your place of worship. Got more time? Consider volunteering for a charitable group and help yourself while helping others.
  • Assert Yourself: Learning to say no or being willing to delegate can help you manage your to-do list and your stress. Saying yes may seem like an easy way to keep the peace, prevent conflicts and get the job done right. But it may actually cause you internal conflict because your needs and those of your family come second, which can lead to stress, anger, resentment and even the desire to exact revenge. And that’s not a very calm and peaceful reaction.
  • Get Enough Sleep: Sleep is the time when your brain and body recharge. Stress can cause you to have trouble falling asleep. If you have sleep troubles, make sure that you have a quiet, relaxing bedtime routine, listen to soothing music, put clocks away, and stick to a consistent schedule.
  • Seek Counseling: If new stressors are challenging your ability to cope or if self-care measures just aren’t relieving your stress, you may need to look for reinforcements in the form of therapy or counseling. Therapy also may be a good idea if you feel overwhelmed or trapped, if you worry excessively, or if you have trouble carrying out daily routines or meeting responsibilities at work, home or school. Professional counselors or therapists can help you identify sources of your stress and learn new coping tools.

Stress is a part of our everyday life. On the positive side, it can spur us to work harder and be successful. However, stress can also have debilitating effects on our lives if we do not recognize how it is impacting us and properly manage it. Lou Holtz stated, “it’s not the load that breaks you down; it’s the way you carry it”. This month let us take inventory, be mindful of our loads, and make adjustments to find the needed balance in our lives. Let’s take time to relax, relate and release.