- Feeling like there are too many pressures and demands on you?
- Losing sleep worrying about tests and schoolwork?
- Eating on the run because your schedule is just too busy?
You're not alone. Everyone experiences stress at times adults, teens, and even kids. But there are ways to minimize stress and manage the stress that's unavoidable.
What is Stress?
Stress is a feeling that's created when we react to particular events. It's the body's way of rising to a challenge and preparing to meet a tough situation with focus, strength, stamina, and heightened alertness.
There are at least three different types of stress:
- Routine stress related to the pressures of work, family, and other daily responsibilities.
- Stress brought about by a sudden negative change, such as losing a job, divorce, or illness.
- Traumatic stress, which happens when you are in danger of being seriously hurt or killed.
Examples include a major accident, war, assault, or a natural disaster. This type of stress can cause post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Different people may feel stress in different ways. Some people experience digestive symptoms. Others may have headaches, sleeplessness, depressed mood, anger, and irritability. People under chronic stress get more frequent and severe viral infections, such as the flu or common cold. Vaccines, such as the flu shot, are less effective for them.
Some people cope with stress more effectively than others. It's important to know your limits when it comes to stress, so you can avoid more serious health effects.
Symptoms and Effects of stress:
Stress symptoms may be affecting your health, even though you might not realize it. You may think illness is to blame for that nagging headache, your frequent insomnia or your decreased productivity at work. But stress may actually be the culprit.
Indeed, stress symptoms can affect your body, your thoughts and feelings, and your behavior. Being able to recognize common stress symptoms can give you a jump on managing them. Stress that's left unchecked can contribute to many health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes.
Common effects of stress on your body:
- Muscle tension or pain.
- Chest pain.
- Change in sex drive.
- Stomach upset.
- Sleep problems.
Common effects of stress on your mood:
- Lack of motivation or focus.
- Feeling overwhelmed.
- Irritability or anger.
- Sadness or depression.
Common effects of stress on your behavior:
- Overeating or under-eating.
- Angry outbursts.
- Drug or alcohol abuse.
- Tobacco use.
- Social withdrawal.
- Exercising less often.
If you have stress symptoms, taking steps to manage your stress can have numerous health benefits.
Explore stress management strategies, such as:
- Regular physical activity.
- Relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation, yoga, tai chi or getting a massage.
- Keeping a sense of humor.
- Socializing with family and friends.
- Setting aside time for hobbies, such as reading a book or listening to music.
- Aim to find active ways to manage your stress.
- And be sure to get plenty of sleep and eat a healthy.
- balanced diet.
- Avoid tobacco use, excess caffeine and alcohol intake, and the use of illicit substances.
Inactive ways you may use to manage stress:
such as watching television, surfing the Internet or playing video games may seem relaxing, but they may increase your stress over the long term.
If you're not sure if stress is the cause or if you've taken steps to control your stress but your symptoms continue, see your doctor. Your doctor may want to check for other potential causes. Or, consider seeing a professional counselor or therapist, who can help you identify sources of your stress and learn new coping tools.
Also, if you have chest pain, especially if it occurs during physical activity or is accompanied by shortness of breath, sweating, dizziness, nausea, or pain radiating into your shoulder and arm, get emergency help immediately. These may be warning signs of a heart attack and not simply stress symptoms.
Causes of Stress:
A lot of things can cause stress. You may feel stress when you go on a job interview, take a test, or run a race. These kinds of short-term stress are normal.
Long-term (chronic) stress is caused by stressful situations or events that last over a long period of time, like problems at work or conflicts in your family. Over time, chronic stress can lead to severe health problems.
Personal problems that can cause stress:
1. Your health:
especially if you have a chronic illness such as heart disease, diabetes, or arthritis.
2. Emotional problems:
such as anger you can't express, depression, grief, guilt, or low self-esteem.
3. Your relationships:
such as having problems with your relationships or feeling a lack of friendships or support in your life.
4. Major life changes:
such as dealing with the death of a parent or spouse, losing your job, getting married, or moving to a new city.
5. Stress in your family:
such as having a child, teen, or other family member who is under stress, or being a caregiver to a family member who is elderly or who has health problems.
6. Conflicts with your beliefs and values:
For example, you may value family life, but you may not be able to spend as much time with your family as you want.
Social and job issues that can cause stress:
1. Your surroundings:
Living in an area where overcrowding, crime, pollution, or noise is a problem can create chronic stress.
2. Your social situation:
Not having enough money to cover your expenses, feeling lonely, or facing discrimination based on your race, gender, age, or sexual orientation can add stress to your life.
3. Your job:
Being unhappy with your work or finding your job too demanding can lead to chronic stress.
Losing your job or not being able to find work can also add to your stress level.
You may need help dealing with stress if you have faced a life-threatening or traumatic event such as rape, a natural disaster, or war. These events can cause acute stress disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Feeling stress is a fact of life for most people. But it affects everyone differently. What causes stress for you may not be stressful for someone else. That's because how you view a situation affects how much stress it causes you. Only you can figure out whether you have too much stress in your life.
Ask yourself these questions to find out what is causing your stress:
- Your job.
- Dealing with a family member who is under stress.
- Have you had any recent major life changes?
Life changes such as getting married, moving to a new city, or losing a job can all be stressful. You can't always control these things, but you can control how you respond to them.
To find out your current stress level based on recent changes in your life, try this Interactive Tool:
- What Is Your Stress Level?
- Do your beliefs cause you stress?
Some people feel stress because their beliefs conflict with the way they are living their life. Examine your beliefs, such as your values and life goals, to find out if you have this kind of conflict in your life.
How are you coping with stress?
Your lifestyle choices can prevent your body from recovering from stress.
For example, as you sleep, your body recovers from the stresses of the day.
If you're not getting enough sleep or your sleep is often interrupted, you lose the chance to recover from stress. The way you act and behave can also be a sign of stress. Some people who face a lot of stress react by smoking, drinking too much alcohol, eating poorly, or not exercising. The health risks posed by these habits are made even worse by stress.
Your body feels stress-related wear and tear in two ways:
the stress itself and the unhealthy ways you respond to it.
- Use this coping strategies evaluation form to help you find out how you cope with stress.
- Try this Interactive Tool: How Well Do You Bounce Back?
It measures your ability to deal with life's challenges.