Stress Awareness Month

What is Stress Awareness Month?

Stress Awareness Month has been recognized during the month of April since 1992; it spreads awareness of the ways in which stress impacts our mental and physical health as well as urges us to find healthy ways to manage our own stress.

What is stress and how does it impact us?

We often talk about stress, but what does it really mean? According to the American Psychological Association, stress is defined as “the physiological or psychological response to internal or external stressors. Stress involves changes affecting nearly every system of the body, influencing how people feel and behave” (2020). Put simply, stress is our own response to stimuli (stressors). Stress can be acute (responses to short term stressors) or chronic (response to ongoing, long term stressors), and not all stress is bad. Some stress can help us better navigate situations such as job interviews or help us get out of a dangerous situation. However, chronic stress can start to negatively impact our minds and bodies. The National Institute of Mental Health describes these effects as “once lifesaving reactions in the body” that when experienced long term, can “disturb the immune, digestive cardiovascular, sleep and reproductive symptoms” (2021). The study of stress often intertwines endocrinology, psychology, and biology, as it clearly impacts how we function as a whole. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), stress can cause the following: difficulty sleeping and nightmares, changes in appetite, energy, and desires, difficulty concentrating and making decisions, feeling of fear, anger, sadness, worry, numbness, or frustration, worsening of mental health conditions, worsening of chronic health problems, physical reactions such as headaches and body pains, and increased use of substances like tobacco and alcohol (2021).

Healthy ways to cope with stress.

As we may have personally experienced, stress often pushes us to find ways to cope that aren’t always healthy, such as consuming unhealthy food. Ironically, this can make us feel even worse in times of stress! This urges the importance of finding healthy ways to effectively cope with stress.

The CDC recommends taking breaks from social media and news sources, connecting with our support systems (which could be friends, family, or valued communities), and taking care of our bodies (eating healthy, well-balanced meals, exercising regularly, getting sleep, etc.) to effectively cope with stress (2021). Many people find that getting out in nature or practicing meditation can help ground them in times of increased stress. Seeking help from a mental health professional such as a psychiatrist or therapist can also help us learn how to manage our stress in healthy ways through developing action plans to change our reactions to stress as well as our environment in some cases. 


  • The American Institute of Stress – provides education information on everything stress-related as well as resources for healthy coping.
  • Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers – written by renowned Stanford University biologist, Robert Sapolsky, this book provides insight into the biological mechanisms of stress, also including a self-help element.


American Psychological Association. (2020). APA Dictionary of Psychology: Stress. American Psychological Association. Retrieved December 11, 2021, from 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). Coping with stress. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved December 11, 2021, from 

National Institute of Mental Health. (2021). 5 things you should know about stress. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved December 11, 2021, from