Stress. Everyone experiences it — it’s a normal part of life. How you deal with your stress, however, is what directs how it affects your mood, interactions, and even your physical health.
Stress is your body’s reaction to any kind of demand. Stress can be physical, mental, and emotional. It can come out of positive or negative experiences and changes. Stress isn’t always bad — it’s built into your body as a way to help you face challenging or threatening situations.1
How Stress Affects You
Short term stress, like stress over a work project, can start to cause symptoms such as:
- Feeling tired all the time
- Trouble sleeping
- Inability to focus
- Stomach problems
If your stress is constant, and lasts for a long time, it can cause even more dire effects, like:
- High blood pressure
- Serious heart problems
- Digestion problems
- Weight gain or loss
- Lowered sex drive
- Difficulty getting pregnant
- Skin problems3
Managing Your Stress
Keeping your stress in check is the best way to safeguard your wellbeing. Here are concrete steps to prevent your stress from hijacking your life and health.
- Pinpoint the source. Do you know why you’re stressed? Listen to your body and figure out what’s causing you strain, so you can address it.
- Take a break. It may not feel like you can avoid constant worries such as parenting, medical issues, or financial worry. But giving yourself permission to unwind and detach from pressures — even just for half an hour — can bring great relief and a chance to recharge.
- Exercise. There’s no way around it: moving your body makes it feel better and work better. Find a physical activity you enjoy and do it regularly— you’ll feel the positive effects.
- Have fun. Smiling and laughing send signals to your brain that everything is going to be OK. Your body needs a way to release tension, and fun is a great way to do that.
- Seek support. There’s an old saying: “A worry shared is a worry halved.” This holds true for stress. Finding someone—a friend, loved one, or trained counselor—who can help you work through your stress will help you cope and give you needed relief.
- Calm your body. Seek peaceful moments to rest your mind and body. Whether you use prayer, a nap, or meditation, quieting your thinking can do you a world of good.2
- National Institute of Mental Health
- American Psychological Association