NEW JERSEY -- April is National Stress Awareness month, and nonprofit Caring Contact is sharing tips for avoiding and reducing stress. Caring Contact is an award-winning, volunteer-staffed caring and crisis hotline and listening community, providing active listening support and best-in-class training to Central and Northern New Jersey. More than 100 trained volunteer listeners answer nearly 9,000 calls each year from people in crisis, having suicidal thoughts or simply feeling depressed, lonely or stressed.
"Experts tell us that some amount of stress in life is unavoidable," said Janet Sarkos, Caring Contact's executive director. "Stress is a natural response to danger and enables us to respond accordingly, such as swerving a car to avoid an accident.
"But unfortunately, everyday events, such as conflicts at work, financial concerns or anxiety over a personal matter also can trigger stress. And if this kind of stress becomes persistent, it can lead to significant health problems, including depression."
According to the Federal Occupational Health (FOH) agency, long-term stress can lead to a wide range of illnesses – from headaches to stomach concerns and depression – and can even increase the risk of serious conditions such as stroke and heart disease. Stress also causes other hormones to activate that can suppress functions such as digestion and the immune system, leaving people more susceptible to illness.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America offers these tips for dealing with and reducing stress:
- Take a time-out. Practice yoga, meditate, get a massage or learn relaxation techniques.
- Eat well-balanced meals and do not skip any meals. Keep healthful, energy-boosting snacks on hand.
- Limit alcohol and caffeine, which can aggravate anxiety and trigger panic attacks.
- Do your best. Instead of aiming for perfection, be proud of however close you get.
- Welcome humor. A good laugh goes a long way.
- Get involved. Volunteer or find another way to be active in your community, which creates a support network and gives you a break from everyday stress.
- Learn what triggers your anxiety. Is it work, family, school or something else you can identify? Write in a journal when you’re feeling stressed or anxious and look for a pattern.
- Talk to someone. Tell friends and family you’re feeling overwhelmed and let them know how they can help you. Talk to a physician or therapist for professional help or call Caring Contact.
Caring Contact listeners are available for people experiencing stress and/or depression. Calls are nonjudgmental and listeners provide an empathetic ear while helping callers find a solution to their concerns. Call 908.232.2880.
Callers to the hotline have made these comments to Caring Contact listeners:
- "As I tell you stuff, the pain in my body lessens."
- "People don't know how to be there and listen. Thank you for listening and letting me talk things out."
- “Thank you so much for listening to me…I feel good when I call here and I talk to someone.”
Caring Contact is a primary responder to calls to the national suicide prevention line (1-800-273-TALK or 1-800-SUICIDE) that originate in New Jersey. Callers also reach Caring Contact by dialing 908-232-2880. Those preferring to seek supporting through texting may text “heart” to 741-741. To learn more, visit www.caringcontact.org. Anyone interested in volunteering at Caring Contact, either as a listener or in some other capacity, should visit http://caringcontact.org/give-support/volunteer/.