April is Stress Awareness Month

Perhaps appropriately, given the times we find ourselves in, the month of April is recognized as Stress Awareness Month. It’s actually not new — Stress Awareness Month has been commemorated each April since 1992. Work and school, finances, relationships, parenting, caregiving, concerns for safety, life changes, finding one’s purpose, and even the weather can be sources of stress in our lives, not to mention global pandemics and social isolation! If left unmanaged, stress can cause burnout, anxiety, depression, disease, and even suicide. Managing Stress During Tough Times, a fact sheet from the Colorado State University Extension, suggests that one way to cope is to notice “the meaning or perception you have about the [situation]. Strive to find a positive meaning.”

Some groups, such as military and law enforcement, experience another level of stress and many find themselves dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder. The Colorado Department of Public Safety has been tracking PTSD response; they issued a report on peace officers’ PTSD in 2015. Anyone who has suffered a traumatic event can experience PTSD, including children. The Colorado Department of Education offers a fact sheet on students with PTSD. Additionally, the University of Colorado Boulder’s Natural Hazards Center has published a short report on Children’s Exposure to Traumatic Events.

What are ways of coping with stress and life changes? For some helpful tips, take a look at the CSU Extension fact sheet Transitions and Changes: Practical Strategies, which offers guidance on how to see transitions as a process; ways to take care of yourself and build self-esteem; and how be positive, flexible, and in control. “It’s not what happens to you that causes you to respond the way you do, but how you choose to react to what happens. Take charge of your thoughts and actions and you will be able to control better how you respond.”

Finally, there are many resources available from the State of Colorado if you need some help or someone to talk to. Colorado 211 can help you connect to services. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Mantherapy website offers helpful resources for men’s mental health, presented in a fun, engaging format. State employees and their families have access to the Colorado State Employees Assistance Program, which provides confidential counseling (utilizing teletherapy during the coronavirus outbreak). The Colorado School Safety Resource Center has resources on their website about helping children cope with the changes related to COVID-19. And the Colorado Department of Human Services wants all Coloradans to know that confidential services are available for help dealing with the stress of COVID-19:

When you hear, read or watch news about an outbreak of an infectious disease such as COVID-19, it’s normal to feel anxious and stressed. Taking care of yourself during times of stress and uncertainty is extremely important. We want you to know there are support systems and resources available to help you maintain your own wellness during an infectious disease outbreak. Colorado Crisis Services is available 24/7/365 if you need to talk. Call 1-844-493-8255.