National Stress Awareness Month

What is National Stress Awareness Month?

Originally established in the UK in 1992 by the International Stress Management Association (ISMA), Stress Awareness Month was created to help break the stigma around mental health in the workplace and bring attention to stress-reducing habits. ISMA recognized that many employees were experiencing burnout and extreme stress with few ways to discuss it openly in professional settings. Stress Awareness Month was established in hopes of breaking down those stigmas and educating the public on simple ways to manage the stress of the modern world.

Your brain on stress!

What is stress?

“Stress” was originally used in physics to describe force acting on an area of material. It was adopted by Austrian-born scientist Hans Selye in 1920 to describe strain on the physical body.  

When discussing stress, it’s important to recognize that stress in itself is not negative. Stress helps our body build muscles, helps strengthen our immune system and can reward us with joyful experiences (think of the stress of a wedding day). But the human body is not made to manage ongoing stress without extended periods of recovery. If our ancestors were lucky enough to escape the jaws of a predator, they would spend time directly afterwards resting, allowing their nervous systems to come back to homeostasis. In the modern Western world, our stressors aren't tigers and lions and bears but emails, financial instability and unpredictable political climates. And the hyper-productive capitalist American culture does not foster a spirit of recovery and relaxation to balance these factors out, leading to an ever-rising rate of burnout, especially in the workplace. 

It’s also important to know that stress affects minority groups and low socioeconomic status at a significantly higher rate than those of the majority. 

Unchecked, stress leads to severe health issues from mental illness, heart disease and cancer to name a few. Your body is stuck in a fight/flight/freeze/fawn mode and cannot properly rest/digest. But all is not lost. There are many small but monumental ways you can impact how stress affects your life and body. 

How can I manage stress?

The theme for this year’s Stress Awareness Month is #littlebylittle, emphasizing the importance of small daily steps that make a difference in the long run. Giving yourself small but intentional moments to rest helps disrupt the stress in your nervous system, allowing your body to once again find that parasympathetic (or rest/digest) mode. 

Tips from Stress Management Society

Here are some helpful places to start:

-prioritize sleep: set aside a time each night you will begin to get ready for bed, put screens away, put on gentle music, do some gentle stretching and have a cup of tea
-connect with others: check in with the safe people in your life, even a simple conversation will do wonders to change the vibe of your day
-move your body: find a practice that you enjoy to get your body moving whether it be bird watching, basketball, hiking, mall walking, or going to the farmers market, any movement that feel safe for your body and is enjoyable will help train your body to recognize when stress has passed and when to start the recovery process
-spend time in nature: sit outside and read a book, take a walk through the neighborhood, garden
-breathe deep: taking deep conscious breaths helps shift your nervous system into rest/digest, focus on deep breathing into the belly and blowing it out your mouth slowly
-practice mindfulness: meditation, yoga, tai chi, or any hobby the fully engrosses you (also called flow state) will help pause the stress reaction and train your body to find homeostasis more quickly and efficiently
Your brain in rest/digest mode

What role does massage play in stress management?

Massage and bodywork are powerful tools in helping your body and mind come back to relaxation mode. Not only are you physically allowing your body to come to rest and working out those muscles stiff with regular stress, you are allowing your mind to pay attention to how stress has been affecting your system as a whole. Ever notice when you receive a massage how your massage therapist might run their hands over an area you never think about only to find “Yikes! That’s tight!”? Massage reconnects the link between body and mind, bringing a key part of stress management: mindfulness.

Going through our daily lives, we rarely have a moment to pause and take note of our stress level. Massage is an intentional space to do just that. It’s the reason your therapist will suggest you return every 4 to 5 weeks. Giving yourself a regular body/mind check in will help you understand how stress is affecting you, how your stress management skills might need changing or improvement and not to mention reduce stress in and of itself!

We at Auroraflow are aware that though we view massage therapy as a part of healthcare and regular stress management, for many people in the current American environment, massage is a luxury product and thus stress management a luxury. To make it a little easier for those in our community at different socioeconomic levels to access this tool for stress reduction, we have “Pay what you can '' days every second and fourth Thursday of every month. 


Stress can make you feel overwhelmed and out of control and can chip away at your health over time. You cannot avoid stress but you can manage your reaction and recovery to stress with small changes in your daily routine and reaching out to your community (including Auroraflow) for support. 

Further Resources and Citations: 

American Psychology Association on Stress and Minorities

Stress Management Society and #littlebylittle Campaign

National Institutes of Health on Stress Awareness Month

Health Surrey on Stress Awareness Month 2024

Days of the Year on National Stress Awareness Day

The American Massage Therapy Association on The Science of Stress

The Mayo Clinic on Can Massage Relieve Symptoms of Anxiety, Depression and Stress?