Stress is a normal part of life. Many things, both good and bad, can cause you to feel stress. A little bit of stress maybegood,like when it gives you the push you need to finish an assignment. Too much stress, however, can be bad for your health. Learn how to recognize the signs of stress, and then review ways to deal with stress.
Everyone experiences stress differently. Below are ways stress can affect your body, mind and behavior.
Physical symptoms may include:
- Trouble sleeping
- Upset stomach; indigestion
- Chest pains
- Panic attacks
- Changes in appetite
- Body aches
Emotional and mental symptoms include:
- Feeling irritable, angry, on edge
- Feeling anxious or overwhelmed
- Having trouble concentrating
Stress can also cause you to increase risky behaviors, such as:
- Increased drinking or drug use
Risks of stress
Our bodies are designed to deal with a little bit of stress. We experience the stress physically, but then can let it go. But when stress is ongoing, it can create problems throughout your body:
- Headaches, neck and back pain
- Worsened respiratory diseases, such as asthma and COPD
- Increased risk of high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke
- Metabolic disorders, such as diabetes
- Gastrointestinal symptoms including upset stomach, heartburn and reflux
Ways to cope with stress
Left unchecked, stress can take a toll on your body and mind. Here are ways to help manage stress:
- Identify the sources of your stress. The first thing to do is figure out what is causing you stress. Think about whether you can get rid of the source of your stress. For instance, if you feel stressed whenever you listen to or read the news, try limiting how often you tune into news stories.
- Practice relaxation techniques. What helps you feel calm? These relaxation techniques may help undo the physical effects of stress:
- Take deep, full breaths.
- Scan your body, relaxing each body part as you think of it.
- Write in your journal, or make some art.
- Move your body. Stress can affect you physically. You can also undo some of the effects of stress by getting your body moving. Yoga and Tai Chi are two forms of exercise that may be particularly helpful, since they also have deep breathing built in. But anything you enjoy—walking, dancing, biking—will help relieve stress.
- Connect with others. Getting together with friends and loved ones can be a great way to cope. Social support may make it easier to deal with stress.
- Get restful sleep. Stress often interferes with sleep. Set the stage for restful sleep by practicing sleep hygiene. Turn off screens an hour before bedtime, dim the lights and aim for a consistent bedtime and wake-up time.
- Seek professional help, if necessary. You don’t need to do it alone. If you’ve tried to manage stress on your own and you’re still feeling overwhelmed, reach out to a therapist or your primary care physician.