‘Stress Relievers’ is today’s theme during Mental Health Awareness Month

May 16, 2022

‘Stress Relievers’ is today’s theme during Mental Health Awareness Month

MOBILE, Ala. — The Mobile County Health Department’s Health Equity Office is recognizing May as Mental Health Awareness Month. This week’s article – submitted by Outreach Educator Skandan Ananthasekar – has a theme of “Stress Relievers.”

Stress is a normal response to situational pressures and demands. Acute stress is adaptive because it can help us focus and be more productive. However, chronic stress can become harmful, affecting your body, mind, and spirit. Chronic stress can weaken your immune system making it easier for you to become ill and increases your risk for mental health problems. Chronic stress can also worsen symptoms for those that are already suffering from mental illness.

Stress can contribute to health disparities because stressors are not evenly distributed across the population. Individuals from vulnerable populations (racial/ethnic minorities, individuals of low socioeconomic status) are often exposed to chronic stressors than other populations. Examples of chronic stressors include financial difficulties, discriminatory acts, exposure to violence, and limited access to quality health care.

A lack of sufficient resources to meet the demands of everyday life or unforeseen circumstances can make even minor demands more stressful. Individuals in low socioeconomic status (SES) neighborhoods are often in unsafe neighborhoods, exposed to greater levels of crime, and must be constantly vigilant about their environment. Racial discrimination further compounds these effects by creating barriers to access the necessary resources to overcome stressors.

Reducing the effects of stressors on vulnerable populations will take systemic level interventions such as improving economic access, reducing violence, and reducing discrimination in our institutions. However, there are individual level stress-relieving techniques that can help improve your quality of life. Mind-body programs such as meditation, guided imagery, and expressive art are among the most promising stress reduction techniques. These practices can help focus your attention and create a sense of inner calm and peace.

Another strategy is to schedule time within your day for things that you enjoy. Hobbies such as gardening, artistic pursuits, and playing music helps reduce stress. People struggling with stress often want to isolate themselves, but social contact can be a good stress reliever because you are able to receive support from people that care about you. This includes connecting with friends and family, joining a community with similar interests, or volunteering for charitable groups. Other useful techniques for reducing stress include eating well, exercising regularly, proper sleep hygiene, and avoiding alcohol and drugs.

However, stress can challenge your ability to cope, and sometimes professional help is needed. Resources available to our community include:

National Alliance on Mental Illness Help Line: 800-950-NAMI (6264)
AltaPointe Health Crisis Response Team: 251-450-2211
Veterans Recovery Resources: 251-405-3677
Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-TALK (8255)

This media product was supported by funds made available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Center for State, Tribal, Local and Territorial Support, under 1 NH75OT000104-01-00. The content of this media product is that of the authors and does not necessarily stand for the official position of or endorsement by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.