Stress is something we all encounter throughout our lives - in small doses, stress is a very
normal part of life. But unnecessary amounts of stress are unpleasant and can distract you from
the important things in life. Worse yet, large amounts of stress can wreak major havoc on your
But stress not, here is everything you should know about stress, its impacts on health and how
to best manage it.
What is stress?
Stress is an emotional response to stimuli, be it an event, pressure at work, financial challenges,
or family drama. Stress can manifest itself in different ways, for many people it’s feeling like they have a knot in their stomach while for others stress may lead to disruptions in sleep, bathroom regularity and appetite.
Stress in small doses can actually be beneficial, like when you’re running from danger or taking
an important test. These smaller doses of stress are called acute stress, meaning they don’t last
long and can actually often provide you with the little push or motivation you need to complete a task or perform at your best.
Then there is chronic stress. This form of stress is prolonged and often unrelenting and can
ultimately lead to health consequences if not addressed and managed.
Consequences of Chronic Stress
Chronic stress can wear on the body after a while, leading to bouts of fatigue, lack of
concentration and irritability.
Further down the road, large amounts of chronic stress can lead to issues like increased risks
for cardiovascular disease, inflammation, high blood pressure, gastric issues, weakened
immune function and depression or anxiety.
Tips to Manage Stress
Managing stress is easier said than done, but there are some simple strategies you can
implement to better deal with stress.
- Identify the Culprit
One of the first things to do when it comes to addressing stress is identifying what is stressing you out. Is it your work? Personal life? Health? Maybe it’s a combination of factors. You can’t truly address stress without knowing what’s causing it. So take a step back and reflect: when do you notice your stress is the highest and does it correlate with a specific behavior, action or scenario?
- Self Care
Once you identify some of the causes of stress in your life, you can then begin to find ways of better handling that stress. Oftentimes, a little self care goes a long way.
Think about some of the things you enjoy doing - maybe it’s getting outdoors, taking a bubble bath, reading a good book, or cooking a meal for friends. When you start to feel that stress creeping up on you, utilize these activities to help take your mind off things and release some feel good endorphins.
- Get Moving
Exercise can be a huge factor in stress management and reduction as it releases endorphins which can help to support a positive outlook and attitude.
Try to incorporate a variety of physical activity, some that is more cardiovascular focused and other activities that support lean muscle mass. This might look something like walking 30 minutes 2-3 days per week and doing body weight exercises at home like squats and push-ups a few other days. Or it could be attending a few yoga classes a week and hitting the pool on the weekends. Whatever exercise(s) you choose, you’ll not only be getting the physical benefits but you’ll also be utilizing the powerful stress relieving benefits.
- Find Support
As you’ve learned today, stress can be a real barrier when it comes to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. If you are someone who is frequently stressed and has struggled to find coping strategies, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help. Take your health into your own hands and utilize some of the amazing resources that are out there. Consider talking with your primary care provider for recommendations or do a little research online. There are plenty of online support options that you can utilize from the comfort of your own home including mental health counselors and support groups.
Stress is something that we all deal with but it is also very individual in terms of how it impacts us and our day to day lives. Being able to identify some of the stressors in your life and finding outlets for handling that stress can make a big difference on your path to wellness.