Mental Health Series: Managing Stress

We all get stressed from time to time; whether you're stressed because of your job, or personal issues, it's easy to let the pressure get to you. In our continuing series about mental health, we last presented an article about seasonal depression. In conjunction with National Stress Awareness Month observed in April, Benefits.gov wants to help keep you in the loop on the importance of managing stress. According to the American Heart Association, stress can negatively affect your mind and your body, and long-term stress can lead to many health issues ranging from minor illnesses, such as headaches and stomach disorders, to more serious conditions, like depression and heart disease.

Stress Awareness
The Federal Occupational Health Agency (FOH) under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), works with federal entities to provide a wide-range of occupational health solutions for federal employees and provides helpful information on stress through their Stress Awareness campaign. Stress is a natural response to any situation that our mind perceives as potentially threatening. Although potentially threatening and dangerous situations don't always arise, personal conflicts, hectic work environments, worry, or bad memories can also trigger stress, and long-term or extreme stress can weaken your immune system. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) cites various symptoms for stress including shock, anger, irritability, fear and anxiety, loss of appetite, nightmares, sadness or crying, sleep problems, headaches and more.

Take time to unwind...
Managing your stress takes patience, self-care and social support. You may not be able to control everything about your stressful situation, but you can take control of your response and approach to easing your mind. The FOH wants you to know that you have various options:

  • Recognize when you don't have control, and let it go.
  • Don't get anxious about situations that you cannot change.
  • Take control of your own reactions, and focus on what makes you feel calm and in control. This may take some practice, but it pays off in peace of mind.
  • Develop a vision for healthy living, wellness, and personal-professional growth and set realistic goals to help you realize your vision.

 

Here are some more helpful tips to consider when trying to better handle your stress:

 

  • Avoid drugs and alcohol, as they can cause more health problems in the long run and only temporarily 'fix' your problems.
  • Seek support from friends, family members, colleagues or a counselor if needed and talk through your issues. If you're in need of assistance finding counseling, check out our counsel/counseling benefits on our site.
  • Take care of yourself - eat a well-balanced diet, exercise and sleep regularly, take a break when you need to and take a walk, read a book, have a cup of tea, or meditate in a quiet area.


Stress can be powerful, and, if not managed properly, can take control of our lives. Try some of the tips mentioned above to help combat your stress, and don't take it on alone. Contact a health professional or a friend or family member to help you manage your stress. For more information about different common mental health issues, check out our last article from our 'Mental Health' series. Also, don't forget to go on our homepage and fill out our Benefit Finder questionnaire to find out which benefits you may be eligible to receive.

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