The month of April always feels like a turning point in the year. We celebrate favorite spring holidays like Easter and Passover, families unwind over spring vacation, and the weather finally starts to improve; reminding us that summer is just around the corner.
But did you know that April is also National Stress Awareness month? With this effort, every April since 1992, health care professionals have worked to spread awareness of country’s stress epidemic and its consequences.
Too often, Americans view chronic stress as a fact of life, rather than acknowledging the serious threat that it poses. While we accept that conditions like anxiety and depression need to be diagnosed and treated, long-term stress tends to get ignored or placed low on the priority list. Unfortunately, when left unchecked, stress can contribute to countless health problems, ranging from anxiety to insomnia to heart disease and cancer.
Tips for a Stress-Free Spring
Fortunately, spring is the perfect time to take stock of your stress levels and take simple, effective steps for a lower-stress life.
- Get outside and enjoy the springtime sun. With the warmer weather and everything in bloom, spring is the perfect time to get some fresh air. Studies have shown that being in nature reduces stress and depression, and flowers can improve your mood.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables. Cold winter weather usually means heavy, hearty meals, but the coming of spring and the return of the growing season calls for lighter meals full of fresh fruits and vegetables. Eating a plant-heavy diet gives you more energy throughout the day and provides your body with the nutrients necessary for fighting stress and illness.
- Make plans you’ll look forward to. Springtime is when we come out of “hibernation” and start getting out more. And let’s face it – having something fun planned for the weekend makes the work-week stress a lot more manageable. It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant. Something as simple as going on a hike or taking your kids to a museum will give you something to look forward to.
- Make time for spring cleaning. This is the season of renewal and fresh starts, which is why we historically like to “clear the cobwebs” from our homes during the spring. Take some time to deep clean your living space and get rid of anything that you no longer like or find useful. Clearing out physical clutter can dramatically improve mental clarity and relieve stress.
- Focus on gratitude. It’s easy to get swept up in all the things that are going wrong in our lives, so it’s important to regularly remind ourselves of what’s going right. According to studies, practicing gratitude has been linked to improved mood, better sleep, fewer aches and pains, and lower levels of anxiety and depression. For a more positive outlook, write down at least three things you’re grateful for every day. I’ll start: Today I’m thankful for blue skies, sunshine, and the progress I’ve made reducing my stress and anxiety.