Stress is the body’s response to physical, mental, or emotional pressure. Stress causes chemical changes in the body that can raise blood pressure, heart rate, and blood sugar levels. It may also lead to feelings of frustration, anxiety, anger, or depression.
Everyone feels stress from time to time. Everything from work and family responsibilities, current news events to serious life events such as a new health diagnosis or the death of a loved one can trigger stress.
Stress responses help your body adjust to new situations. Stress can be positive, keeping us alert, motivated and ready to avoid danger. For example, if you have an important project deadline, a stress response might help your body work harder and stay awake longer. But stress becomes a problem when stressors continue without relief or periods of relaxation. When a person has long-term (chronic) stress, continued activation of the stress response can take a toll on your health. These physical, emotional and behavioral symptoms can develop:
- Exhaustion or trouble sleeping
- Aches and pains
- Anxiety or irritability
- Headaches and dizziness
- Chest pain or feeling like your heart is racing
- Stomach or digestive problems
- Depression or sadness
- Panic attacks
You can’t avoid stress altogether, but you can stop it from becoming overwhelming by practicing some daily strategies:
- Take good care of your body each day. Eating right, getting enough sleep and activity will help your body handle stress much better.
- Exercise when you feel symptoms of stress coming on. Even a short walk can boost your mood.
- Learn to say “no” to additional responsibilities when you are too busy or stressed.
- Stay connected with people who keep you calm, make you happy and provide emotional support. A friend, family member, or neighbor can become a good listener or share responsibilities so that stress doesn’t become overwhelming.
- At the end of each day, take a moment to think about what you’ve accomplished — not what you didn’t get done.
Stress can be just a short-term issue or a long-term problem, depending on what changes are happening in your life. If you feel overwhelmed, if you are using drugs or alcohol to cope, or if you have thoughts about hurting yourself you should seek medical attention. Your primary care provider can help by offering advice, prescribing medicine or referring you to a therapist.
Try making a conscious effort to address your stress and incorporate new routines or techniques to reduce the stress in your life today!