More than just a feeling, stress triggers a physical reaction that affects both your body and mind. Even moderate levels of stress can affect a person’s mental and physical health, causing irritable feelings, exhaustion and trouble sleeping, head and muscle aches, and more.
If left unmanaged, stress can affect your work, personal relationships, and day-to-day life. In fact, chronic stress is one of the biggest contributors to life-threatening illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
Cigna’s recent 360 Well-Being Survey found that 83% of people report being stressed, with 13% experiencing unmanageable stress, highlighting the growing importance of mental health as essential to whole-person health. Indeed, the study found that 72% of the 18,000 people surveyed ranked mental health as the most important influence on personal health and well-being, followed by physical health, at 70%.
Read on for five ways to better understand and manage your stress.
1. Acknowledge and Assess Your Stress Levels
Cigna International recently launched the Cigna StressWaves Test, a first-of-its-kind, free online tool that analyzes acoustic and semantic voice patterns to evaluate stress levels. The StressWaves Test was created in partnership with Ellipsis Health, a medical technology developer and leader in artificial intelligence health and vocal biomarkers. In just 90 seconds, the StressWaves Test can reveal a person’s stress level, ranging from “extremely stressed” to “no stress,” along with a portrait that visualizes the effect of stress on the user's body and mind, as well as personalized resources.
Use Your Voice to See Your Stress with Cigna StressWaves
Talk to us. Our innovative voice technology evaluates your stress levels just by listening.
2. Use Digital Health Tools to Guide Your Wellness Journey
Digital health tools can help guide people toward positive habits and keep stress and anxiety at bay. Tools such as Happify, a behavioral health app and Cigna partner, is designed to help people overcome stress and negative thoughts while building resilience through interactive games and challenges.
For those who want even more personalized behavioral health care, Cigna recently partnered with Ginger to provide in-network coverage for on-demand, behavioral health coaching, therapy, and psychiatry services. Ginger is a digital platform that connects people to coaches who take an active, goal-oriented approach to address a wide array of mental health issues, such as stress, depression, sleep problems, and relationship challenges.
3. Practice Mindfulness
Practicing mindfulness is a powerful way to reduce anxiety, depression, and stress. Mindful.org defines mindfulness as “the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.” But in the hustle and bustle of everyday life, mindfulness can be hard to achieve.
Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is a learning program that teaches people to calm their minds and bodies to help cope with illness, pain, and stress. Studies show that MBSR can help people sleep better and feel less anxious. The program works by helping people train their minds to focus on the present, rather than get lost in regrets from the past or worries about the future. Letting go of such thoughts can help people worry less and accept things as they are. It teaches people to be in control of their minds, so that they can also be in control of their bodies.
At Cigna, we have some great resources to help people live more fully in the moment, such as this collection of mindfulness and stress management podcasts.
Changing Lives by Integrating Mind and Body® (CLIMB)
Learn to live more fully in the moment using our mindfulness and stress management podcasts.
4. Exercise Regularly
One of the fundamental forces in health care is the growing recognition between mental and physical health. The positive effects of regular exercise for physical health are well known. However, exercise can also be a powerful way to improve and maintain mental health. In general, people who exercise regularly experience less stress and anxiety, and research suggests that exercise may help specific mental health problems, including preventing addiction relapse and improving symptoms of depression.
There are many ways exercise can help reduce and relieve stress. Aerobic activity can help the brain produce endorphins, improving mood and overall well-being. Exercise can also help the cardiovascular, digestive, and immune systems learn to endure stress, protecting the body from the negative effects. Exercise can also improve sleep, which is found to be affected by stress. Overall, regular exercise is a simple yet important way to clear the mind, improve well-being, and provide a sense of control.
5. Know When to Ask for Help
There can be a devastating stigma around asking for help, especially when it comes to mental health. One report found that only about 20% of adults with a diagnosable mental disorder or with a self-reported mental health condition saw a mental health provider in the previous year. On the flip side, the statistics show that people who do ask for help benefit from it. Those struggling to cope may be surprised with the level of support and empathy available from friends, family, or peers. Studies show one in five U.S. adults experience mental illness, and at least 8.4 million Americans provide care to an adult with an emotional or mental illness.
“Discussing emotional and psychological pain, and being vulnerable to raise the issue when experiencing it, requires a very deep reserve of courage," said Jonathan Prokup, deputy chief counsel for International Markets at Cigna, in a previous Cigna Newsroom article. "It is so much more courageous to be able to confront that psychological pain out loud than to try to hold it in.”
By leveraging new tools and resources, and incorporating small changes or exercises to our daily routine, we can all take steps toward better managing and understanding our stress. Driven to help our customers achieve whole-person health, Cigna is dedicated to providing support to help improve mental well-being. For more behavioral health resources from Cigna, click here or call 1-855-287-8400 to access Cigna’s 24-hour toll-free helpline.