A little bit of stress can actually be good for you. In small doses, it can help motivate you to succeed and perform under pressure. However, that chronic feeling of being overwhelmed can have some serious health implications. Here are three things you need to know about stress.
1. Stress is Common – Everyone feels stressed now and then, but responses to stress can vary greatly. Some people cope with stress more effectively and recover more quickly than others. There are also different types of stress, each carrying its own physical and mental health risks. Here are three common types of stress:
- Routine stress related to pressures of work, family, school or other daily responsibilities.
- Stress brought on by sudden negative change, such as job loss, divorce or illness.
- Traumatic stress experienced in a major event like an accident or natural disaster in which people may be in danger of being seriously hurt or even killed.
2. Stress Isn’t Always Bad – Stress can motivate people to prepare for a test or job interview. Stress can improve performance. Stress can even be lifesaving in some situations. In response to danger, your body jumps into flight or fight mode and prepares to either face a threat or escape to safety. In these circumstances, your pulse and breath increase, your muscles tense and your brain uses more oxygen – all in an attempt at survival.
3. Long-Term Stress has Serious Health Implications – If the stress response goes on for too long or becomes chronic, it can have a negative effect on your health. Chronic stress can suppress your immune and digestive systems and impede sleep, which may cause them to function improperly. Symptoms of chronic stress vary. Some people may experience digestive symptoms while others suffer from headaches, sadness and irritability. People who suffer from chronic stress are also at increased risk of viral infections. Unfortunately, sometimes people are unaware of long-term stress. Over time, the continued strain can contribute to serious health issues such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and depression.
You can take steps to manage your stress, and by doing so, you may reduce the risk of negative health effects. Here are some tips that may help you cope with stress:
- Be observant – Recognize the signs of your body’s response to stress, such as difficulty sleeping, being easily angered, feeling depressed, and having low energy.
- Talk to your health care provider or a health professional. Don’t wait for your health care provider to ask about your stress. Start the conversation and get proper care for existing or new health problems. Effective treatments can help if your stress is affecting your relationships or ability to work.
- Get regular exercise. Just 30 minutes per day of walking can help boost your mood and improve your health.
- Try a relaxing activity. Explore relaxation or wellness programs, which may incorporate meditation, muscle relaxation, or breathing exercises. Schedule regular times for these and other healthy and relaxing activities.
- Set goals and priorities. Decide what needs to get done now and what can wait. Learn to say “no” to new tasks if you start to feel like you’re taking on too much. Try to be mindful of what you have accomplished at the end of the day, not what you have left to do.
- Stay connected. You are not alone. Keep in touch with people who can provide emotional support and practical help. To reduce stress, ask for help from friends, family, and community or religious organizations.