OKLAHOMA CITY – Stress Awareness Month is observed in April to spotlight the effects of stress and promote mental health resources. 

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, stress can lead to negative outcomes on your mental and physical health, including mood swings, headaches, trouble sleeping, difficulty concentrating and a weakened immune system. Stress can also make symptoms of existing mental health conditions worse.

The nonprofit Oklahoma City Indian Clinic provides health and wellness services to American Indians in central Oklahoma and wants to help people develop skills to manage everyday stressors.

“Generally, people are more susceptible to stress during big life changes, such as moving, losing a loved one or getting married,” Kim Farris, OKCIC’s director of Behavioral Health, said. “It’s important to recognize what triggers your stress so you can develop coping strategies.”

One strategy for stress management is to use a planner to help schedule tasks and avoid feeling overwhelmed by deadlines. Practicing relaxation techniques can also be useful for keeping stress at bay. Deep breathing, meditation or taking a short break to refocus can be calming.

Our physical health plays an important role in helping us manage stress. In addition to improving overall health, daily exercise produces stress-relieving hormones in the body. Be sure to set aside a few minutes each day for an activity you enjoy, like walking, dancing or biking. Along with exercising, we can manage stress by getting enough sleep and eating well.

“A lot of research shows that eating a balanced diet and variety of nutrients, like our leafy greens, lean protein choices, healthy fats and color from our fruits keep us strong and ready to combat stress,” Jessica Chisari, OKCIC’s registered dietitian, said.

Sometimes people need help talking through their stressors and learning which coping skills work for them. OKCIC patients can call 405-948-4900, ext. 610, to schedule an appointment with Behavioral Health. If you or someone you know is in crisis, call 988 for free and confidential support.

The Oklahoma City Indian Clinic was established in 1974 to provide health care and wellness services to American Indians in central Oklahoma. The clinic staff cares for more than 21,000 patients from more than 220 federally recognized tribes every year.

American Indians can receive a range of services,  including medical, dental, pediatrics, prenatal, pharmacy, optometry, physical fitness, nutrition, family programs and behavioral health services. For more information, call (405) 948-4900 or visit www.okcic.com.

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