Everyone feels stressed from time to time, but stress can negatively affect your health.
Stress is how the brain and body respond to any demand such as exercise, work, school, major life changes, or traumatic events. Some people cope with stress more effectively or recover from stressful events more quickly than others. There are different types of stress – all of which carry physical and mental health risks. A stressor may be a one time or short term occurrence, or it can be something that keeps happening over a long period of time.
It is important to pay attention to how you deal with minor and major stress events so that you know when to seek help.
Not all stress is bad. Stress can motivate people to prepare or perform, like when you need to take a test or interview for a new job. Stress can even be life-saving in some situations. In response to danger, your body prepared to face a threat or flee to safety.
Some examples of stress include:
- Routine stress related to the pressures of work, school, family, and other daily responsibilities.
- Stress brought on by a sudden negative change such as losing a job, divorces, or illness.
- Traumatic stress experienced in an event like a major accident, war, assault, or a natural disaster where people may be in danger or seriously hurt or killed. People who experience traumatic stress often experience temporary symptoms of mental illness, but most recover naturally soon after.
How does long-term stress affect your health?
Health problems can occur if the stress response goes on for too long or becomes chronic, such as when the source of stress is constant, or if the response continues after the danger has subsided. Different people may feel stress in different ways. For example, some people experience mainly digestive symptoms, while others may have headaches, sleeplessness, sadness, anger or irritability. People under chronic stress are prone to more frequent and severe viral infections, such as the flu or common cold.
Routine stress may be the hardest type of stress to notice at first. Because the source of stress tends to be more constant than in cases of acute or traumatic stress, the body gets no clear signal to return to normal functioning. Over time, continued strain on your body from routine stress may contribute to serious health problems, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and other illnesses, as well as mental disorders like depression or anxiety.
What are some strategies to manage stress?
The effects of stress tend to build up over time. Taking practical steps to manage your stress can reduce or prevent these effects. The following strategies may help you cope with stress:
- Recognize the Signs of your body’s response to stress, such as difficulty sleeping, increased alcohol and other substance use, being easily angered, feeling depressed, and having low energy.
- Talk to Your Doctor or Health Care Provider. Get proper health care for existing or new health problems.
- Get Regular Exercise. Just 30 minutes per day of walking can help boost your mood and reduce stress.
- Try a Relaxing Activity. Explore stress coping programs, which may incorporate meditation, yoga, tai chi, or other gentle exercises.
- Set Goals and Priorities.Decide what must get done and what can wait, and learn to say no to new tasks if they are putting you into overload. Note what you have accomplished at the end of the day, not what you have been unable to do.
- Stay Connected with people who can provide emotional and other support. To reduce stress, ask for help from friends, family, and community or religious organizations.
The following questionnaire can you help identify the key areas affecting your body’s ability to respond to stress: