- 10 Things You Can Do Right Now To Cope With Stress And Anxiety
- How do stress and anxiety effect the body?
- We did not evolve in a world of deadlines
- Stress and anxiety can literally wear the body down
- How you can use all of this to your benefit
- Ten things you can do to trick your brain into switching to calming procedures
- 1. Breathing exercises
- 2. Listen to relaxing music
- 3. Tetris
- 4. Distract yourself with some things that are oddly satisfying
- 5. Practice good sleep hygiene
- 6. Practice mindfulness
- 7. Structure your environment for mental health
- 8. Get a pet
- 9. Watch some feel good clips
- 10. Find stuff that motivates you and keep it close
- 11: Bonus: Sniff something!
- Do what works for you
- About the Author
- 30 Facts About Stress and Your Health
- 1. Stress is a hormonal response from the body
- 2. Women appear more prone to stress than men
- 3. Stress can overburden your mind with incessant worries
- 4. You may feel jittery from stress
- 5. Stress can make you feel hot
- 6. Being stressed can make you sweat
- 7. Digestive problems may occur
- 8. Stress can make you irritable, and even angry
- 9. Over time, stress can make you feel sad
- 10. Long-term stress can increase your risk of mental health disabilities
- 11. Insomnia may be stress-related
- 12. Daytime sleepiness can happen when you’re stressed
- 13. Chronic headaches are sometimes attributed to stress
- 14. With stress, you may even find it difficult to breathe
- 15. Your skin is sensitive to stress too
- 16. Frequent stress decreases your immune system
- 17. In women, stress may mess up your regular menstrual cycles
- 18. Stress may affect your libido
- 19. Chronic stress can cause substance abuse
- 20. Stress increases your risk for type 2 diabetes
- 21. Ulcers may get worse
- 22. Weight gain from chronic stress is possible
- 23. High blood pressure develops from chronic stress
- 24. Stress is bad for your heart
- 25. Past experiences can cause stress later in life
- 26. Your genes can dictate the way you handle stress
- 27. Poor nutrition can make your stress worse
- 28. A lack of exercise is stress-inducing
- 29. Relationships play a key role in your daily stress levels
- 30. Knowing how to manage stress can benefit your entire life
- The bottom line
- 5 Facts about Stress (and 17 Ways to Deal with It)
- Find a Therapist
- The Physical Effects of Stress | Ohio University
- What is stress?
- How does stress impact the body?
- What are the health implications associated with chronic stress?
- How to manage and cope with stress
- 7 Strange Things Stress Can Do to Your Body
- 1. Muscles and joints
- 2. Heart and lungs
- 3. Skin and hair
- 4. Gut
- 5. Shoulders, head and jaw
- 6. Immune system
- 7. Mental health
- Good Stress, Bad Stress
10 Things You Can Do Right Now To Cope With Stress And Anxiety
By Joe Borders,
Marriage and Family Therapist
In Roseville and Sacramento
December 18, 2018
We all struggle with stress and anxiety at times. Some of us deal with anxiety and/or stress on a regular basis. In these cases, stress and anxiety can really wear on the body and actually make you sick and generally unwell.
Your body can only be in a state of anxiety and/or stress for so long before you start to feel negative physical effects. In this post I’m going to show you ten things you can do to reduce the effects of stress and anxiety.
But first, let’s start out with a quick introduction to why all of this is important.
How do stress and anxiety effect the body?
When you feel stressed and/or anxious your body releases chemicals called corticosteroids which pretty much get the body ready for fight or flight. This is both a good and a bad thing.
The fight or flight response is designed to help you be safe and stay alive in dangerous situations.
The problem arises in the fact that we live in a world where there are very few things that make us stressed or anxious that we can actually fight or run away from.
We did not evolve in a world of deadlines
Our early ancestors evolved in a world where the things that were ly to cause them stress or anxiety were mostly things that they could fight or run away from.
Picture yourself and your family existing thousands of years ago. If you were anxious or stressed it was ly because you needed food or something dangerous was occurring.
If something dangerous was going down you got away from it or fought. If you needed food you found it.
The problem we face in our modern world is that the vast majority of things that bring us stress or anxiety are not things that we can fight or run away from.
You can’t punch your boss in the face you would a tiger or a bear and you can’t run away from your midterm in English.
All of this means that when we are stressed or anxious our bodies are producing chemicals to get us ready to fight or run from something that we actually need to be able to come up with more long term solutions to.
Stress and anxiety can literally wear the body down
This is something I have to talk with clients about all the time. When you’ve got corticosteroids running through your body, but you can’t fight or run from something, two things happen:
- Your brain doesn’t understand what the heck is going on and it tries to find a clear and present danger. This is part of why we grab onto random things to be anxious about when we’re chronically stressed or anxious.
- Over time corticosteroids actually start to wear your body down and you will get sick, tired, inflamed, etc. When I talk with people about this one I to refer to the concept of sitting at a stop light and revving your engine. Theoretically you’re getting yourself ready to really take off when the light turns green…..but if the light stays red for a really long time, you’re eventually going to burn out your engine.
How you can use all of this to your benefit
In most cases, when people have trouble with anxiety, it’s because of a disconnect between the brain’s automatic functions and their conscious thought processes. When something happens to make you stressed or anxious, the brain does its best to identify the source of your stress and anxiety and to get you ready to fight or run from it. All of this is automatic.
You can use this to your benefit. Just as the brain automatically responds to danger by making you feel stressed and anxious, it will also respond to you behaving in a way that is relaxed and calm by making you feel relaxed and calm. The most obvious example of this is the simple act of taking a deep breath.
Have you ever had a time when you were actually in possible danger, but then when the danger passed you took a deep breath and let out a sigh of relief? This is a reflex that the brain makes you do to initiate calming and relaxing.
When you breathe that sigh of relief you can actually feel your body relaxing. One of the big tricks to “mastering” stress and anxiety is to find and practice ways to harness this effect in the body.
Essentially, act calm and relaxed and your brain will follow.
Of course, truly “mastering” stress and anxiety is more complicated than this. I typically tell people that there are 5 major components in battling stress and anxiety:
- Recognize any triggers you have.
- Plan ahead for them. Part of this is practicing your coping skills.
- Recognize and accept your feelings of stress and anxiety and don’t fight them. Accept them as normal responses to what is making you stressed or anxious. This relates to mindfulness.
- When you feel stressed or anxious, use your coping skills.
- Remember that anxiety exists on a curve. At times it feels it will keep getting worse and worse, but eventually it always hits a peak and then gradually goes away. If you can hold onto this knowledge and follow 1-4 then you can shorten the peak and return to calm and relaxed more quickly and easily.
Ten things you can do to trick your brain into switching to calming procedures
So that was a really long intro….didn’t mean to nerd out on you quite so much. Without further ado, the following are a bunch of things you can do when you’re stressed or anxious to get yourself into a better place and calm down.
When learning any coping skills, they can seem corny or weird at first, but I encourage you to try some of these out.
It’s important to practice them when you aren’t super stressed or anxious so that you’re familiar with them and ready when you do become stressed or anxious and actually need them.
Different coping skills work for different people, and we could easily make a list of hundreds of suggestions. These are just a few I have experience with and/or have written about in my personal blog. Take some time to try a few things, find what works for you, and stick with it…..but for sure try breathing exercises and mindfulness.
1. Breathing exercises
Breathing exercises are an invaluable tool in calming/relaxing when you’re stressed or anxious. By taking deep, diaphragmatic breaths, you can engage the brain’s natural, automatic calming responses. It actually turns out a lot of people breath totally wrong. You’re supposed to breathe with your belly, not your chest.
If you’re chest breathing you’re taking in less oxygen and acting stressed/anxious. The brain responds to this signal by releasing fight or flight chemicals and making you feel more stressed or anxious.
Check out the following post I wrote a year or so ago to read more about this and see a video I made to walk people through a simple breathing exercise I start my clients with.
How to Control Anxiety: Breathing Exercises.
2. Listen to relaxing music
This is another one that might seem kind of cliche, but listening to some good relaxing music can really help to put you in a place of calm. I refer people to the following video all the time.
A study in 2017 found this music to be some of the most relaxing. Their study participants reported up to a 65% reduction in anxiety after listening to it.
I encourage people to listen to something this while practicing breathing exercises.
Find some way to distract yourself for a bit. I occasionally refer to a study done a couple of years back that found that participants reported a reduction in cravings for drugs, alcohol, and food after playing Tetris for a few minutes.
I often refer to this study in the context of addiction, but I think the same principles can be applied to stress and anxiety. Find something to distract yourself and disconnect from what is making you stressed or anxious. Then return to it later when you aren’t responding from a gut level, automatic place of being triggered.
This one is tricky because you don’t want to end up in a place where you get sucked into whatever you’re doing and end up procrastinating. Procrastination is usually a result of avoiding anxiety and can lead to heightened/prolonged anxiety.
So take some time and allow yourself a moment to disconnect from your worries/stresses for a moment. But if there is something that needs to get done, get back to it when you can.
4. Distract yourself with some things that are oddly satisfying
On a similar note. I’ve known several people who have found that watching “oddly satisfying” videos on can be relaxing and offer a good way to take a couple of minutes your day to unwind.
These videos typically consist of multiple short clips of things that just kind of fall into place in a way that most people find satisfying.
Search for them on or check out the link below to see a couple of them that I and read a blog post I wrote about them.
Things That are Oddly Satisfying
5. Practice good sleep hygiene
Lots and lots of people suck at sleeping. Turns out sleep is just a lot of other health related things in life; you’ve really got to structure and maintain good habits to facilitate it. Just going to the gym and eating right can help you keep in shape, there are lots of things you can do to help you sleep better. Check out the following link to read more about this.
How to Sleep Better.
6. Practice mindfulness
Mindfulness is a form of meditation that involves fully focusing on one thing, such as your breathing, or sensations sounds and touch, and recognizing thoughts as they come, letting them pass.
A lot of therapists are using mindfulness in session to help their clients learn to calm, relax, and cope with stress and anxiety.
Through mindfulness, people can become more aware of their automatic responses to things and gain more conscious control of their reactions.
I haven’t personally written anything exclusively about mindfulness yet, but the following two blog posts of mine touch on mindfulness. I really recommend at least watching the video in the “Gratitude: a practice in mindfulness” post.
Gratitude: a practice in mindfulness
Mindfulness – Here Comes a Thought
7. Structure your environment for mental health
Your environment affects your mental health! If you’re having a hard time, do something to change your environment for the better. That can mean as little as going outside for a walk or as much as reorganizing your home.
You can make all kinds of changes that can have a positive effect on your mental health. Just having a fish tank for example can lower your blood pressure and help you relax. Check out the following post to read more about this.
Environment Affects Mental Health
8. Get a pet
Dude. Pets are really great for your overall mental health.
Pets are Good for Mental Health
9. Watch some feel good clips
The internet is full of videos you can watch to help you get your mind off of your stress for a bit. Take a look at the ones in these two posts.
Mindfulness: Savor Every Moment
Happiness is a Mob of Westie Pups!
10. Find stuff that motivates you and keep it close
We all have certain things that motivate us. Do something to keep whatever that is close to you. Maybe carry a picture of someone you love with you, or something that reminds you of your goals. Having something this close to you can help you to let go of stress and anxiety and keep your mind on the bigger picture.
Believe in Yourself! A Common Lesson in Counseling
11: Bonus: Sniff something!
Have you ever noticed that certain scents have the ability to immediately take you back to an earlier time in your life and remind you of a special moment, person, place, etc.? Scent is intricately connected with emotions.
Turns out, one of the primary emotional centers of the brain, the amygdala, is directly connected to the nose and is only a couple of centimeters away from it. Essentially, everything you smell gets processed on an emotional level before the brain does anything else with it. This is why scents can so strongly and immediately evoke emotions.
Get yourself something that you think smells good! There really is something to things aromatherapy. I know personally through my wife that a common pregnancy trick is to carry a lemon, stab it with your finger nails, and sniff it to reduce nausea. Scent can really help you!
One of my therapist friends opened up an online store where she sells home made organic soaps, candles, balms, etc. that you could use for this purpose. Check it out at Twin Alchemy.
Do what works for you
Remember that you have to find your own coping skills that work for you. These have been several suggestions that I’ve seen work for some people, but you may need to tweak them to make them your own, or do something entirely different. The important thing is to pay attention to your body and take care of yourself. However that looks for you, do the things you need to do for self care.
In addition to all of these things, it can always be helpful to have someone to talk with. If you’re having trouble with anxiety and/or stress management, you might benefit from therapy. SacWellness can help you find therapists throughout the greater Sacramento area. This includes areas Davis, Woodland, and Auburn.
About the Author
Joe Borders is a marriage and family therapist located in Roseville and Sacramento.
He is primarily a sex positive gender therapist, but also specializes in working with couples, teens, addiction, and the LGBTQ community. Joe is also the owner and founder of SacWellness.
You can find out more about him by visiting his sacwellness listing or by visiting his website: therapy and counseling in Roseville and Sacramento
30 Facts About Stress and Your Health
Stress is a term you’re ly familiar with. You may also know exactly what stress feels . However, what does stress exactly mean? This body response is natural in the face of danger, and it’s what helped our ancestors cope with occasional hazards. Short-term (acute) stress isn’t ly to cause any major health concerns.
But the story’s different with long-term (chronic) stress. When you’re under stress for days — or even weeks or months — you’re at risk for numerous health effects. Such risks may extend to your body and mind, as well as your emotional well-being. Stress may even lead to an inflammatory response in the body, which has been associated with numerous chronic health issues.
Learn more facts about stress, as well as some of the possible contributing factors. Knowing the signs and causes of stress can help you treat it.
1. Stress is a hormonal response from the body
This response all starts with a part of your brain called the hypothalamus. When you’re stressed, the hypothalamus sends signals throughout your nervous system and to your kidneys.
In turn, your kidneys release stress hormones. These include adrenaline and cortisol.
2. Women appear more prone to stress than men
Women are more ly to experience more physical signs of stressed compared to their male counterparts.
This doesn’t mean that men don’t experience stress. Instead, men are more ly to try to escape from the stress and not exhibit any signs.
3. Stress can overburden your mind with incessant worries
You may be flooded with thoughts about the future and your daily to-do list.
Rather than focusing on one item at a time though, these thoughts bombard your mind all at once, and it’s difficult to escape them.
4. You may feel jittery from stress
Your fingers may shake, and your body might feel off-balance. Sometimes dizziness can occur. These effects are linked to hormonal releases — for example, adrenaline can cause a surge of jittery energy throughout your body.
5. Stress can make you feel hot
This is caused by a rise in blood pressure. You may get hot in situations where you’re nervous too, such as when you have to give a presentation.
6. Being stressed can make you sweat
Stress-related sweat is usually a follow-up to excessive body heat from stress. You might sweat from your forehead, armpits, and groin area.
7. Digestive problems may occur
Stress can make your digestive system go haywire, causing diarrhea, stomach upset, and excessive urination.
8. Stress can make you irritable, and even angry
This is due to an accumulation of stress’s effects in the mind. It can also occur when stress affects the way you sleep.
9. Over time, stress can make you feel sad
Constant overwhelming stress can take its toll, and bring down your overall outlook on life. Feelings of guilt are possible too.
10. Long-term stress can increase your risk of mental health disabilities
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, anxiety and depression are the most common.
11. Insomnia may be stress-related
When you can’t quiet down racing thoughts at night, sleep may be hard to come by.
12. Daytime sleepiness can happen when you’re stressed
This may be related to insomnia, but sleepiness may also develop from simply being exhausted from chronic stress.
13. Chronic headaches are sometimes attributed to stress
These are often called tension headaches. The headaches may crop up every time you encounter stress, or they may be ongoing in cases of long-term stress.
14. With stress, you may even find it difficult to breathe
Shortness of breath is common with stress, and it can then turn into nervousness.
People with social anxiety often have shortness of breath when they encounter stressful situations. The actual breath issues are related to tightness in your breathing muscles. As the muscles get more tired, your shortness of breath may worsen. In extreme cases, this may lead to a panic attack.
15. Your skin is sensitive to stress too
Acne breakouts can occur in some people, while others might have itchy rashes. Both symptoms are related to an inflammatory response from stress.
16. Frequent stress decreases your immune system
In turn, you’ll ly experience more frequent colds and flus, even when it isn’t the season for these illnesses.
17. In women, stress may mess up your regular menstrual cycles
Some women may miss their period as a result of being stressed.
18. Stress may affect your libido
One study found that women reported feeling less interested in sex when they were anxious. Their bodies also reacted differently to sexual stimulation when they were anxious.
19. Chronic stress can cause substance abuse
People who experience a lot of stress are more ly to smoke cigarettes and misuse drugs and alcohol. Depending on these substances for stress relief can cause other health problems.
20. Stress increases your risk for type 2 diabetes
This is associated with cortisol releases that can increase blood glucose (sugar) production.
21. Ulcers may get worse
Although stress doesn’t directly cause ulcers, it can aggravate any existing ulcers you may already have.
22. Weight gain from chronic stress is possible
Excessive cortisol releases from adrenal glands above the kidneys may lead to fat accumulation. Stress-related eating habits, such as eating junk food or binge eating, may also lead to excess pounds.
23. High blood pressure develops from chronic stress
Chronic stress and an unhealthy lifestyle will cause your blood pressure to rise. Over time, high blood pressure can cause permanent damage to your heart.
24. Stress is bad for your heart
Abnormal heartbeats and chest pain are symptoms that can be caused by stress.
25. Past experiences can cause stress later in life
This could be a flashback or a more significant reminder related to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Women are up to three times more ly to have PTSD than men.
26. Your genes can dictate the way you handle stress
If you have a family member with overactive responses to stress, you might experience the same.
27. Poor nutrition can make your stress worse
If you eat a lot of junk or processed foods, the excess fat, sugar, and sodium increase inflammation.
28. A lack of exercise is stress-inducing
In addition to being good for your heart, exercise also helps your brain make serotonin. This brain chemical can help you maintain a healthy outlook on stress, while warding off anxiety and depression.
29. Relationships play a key role in your daily stress levels
A lack of support at home can make stress worse, while not taking time off with your friends and family can have similar effects.
30. Knowing how to manage stress can benefit your entire life
According to the Mayo Clinic, people who manage stress tend to live longer and healthier lives.
The bottom line
Everyone experiences occasional stress. Because our lives are increasingly jam-packed with obligations, such as school, work, and raising kids, it can seem a stress-free day is impossible.
Given all the negative effects long-term stress can have on your health, though, it’s worth making stress relief a priority. (Over time, you’ll ly be happier, too!).
If stress is getting in the way of your health and happiness, talk to your doctor about ways you can help manage it. Aside from diet, exercise, and relaxation techniques, they may also recommend medications and therapies.
5 Facts about Stress (and 17 Ways to Deal with It)
Americans are famous for being a hard-working bunch, taking the fewest paid vacation days off.
I, for one, spent the summer studying advanced yoga therapy techniques on weekends, and working during the week, especially during the months of June and August.
But I made sure to take some time off at the beginning and again at the end of the season so I could relax a bit, and I’m glad I did. Studying ways to help people relax is hard work, and it can be pretty stressful!
What did I learn at yoga school? I studied what happens to your body when it is subjected to relentless stress, and the importance of learning how to relax and let go. The stress response works great if you’re running away from a hungry tiger, but prolonged stress is bad for you because it weakens the body and the brain.
This is why:
- Your adrenal glands pump adrenaline, which raises your heart rate, your blood pressure, and increases the amount of sugar in your blood. Your adrenal cortex sends out cortisol, part of the stress response. This helps you run fast when you’re escaping the tiger, but when it becomes habitual and there aren’t any tigers to run away from, it is destructive.
- Stress kills brain cells; a calm environment permits their growth. It is not true that brain cells stop growing when you’re an adult, they just grow more slowly. So help them out and give them a nice place to live.
- Stress is associated with depression and anxiety. No fun.
- Your immune system doesn’t work as well as it should. Ah-choo!
- The right amount of stress is beneficial, but too much is deadly.
Find a Therapist
That’s why relaxation is as important as eating well and getting enough exercise and should be part of your regular health routine.
It’s a way to take care of yourself and show yourself some love. So if it’s not a part of your usual day, you might want to think about adding it to your program.
Don’t have much time? I bet you can find five or 10 minutes to call your own if you look hard.
Maybe your family is demanding. Make some demands of your own in return. You need a break just as much as anyone needs anything.
Working hard for a tyrannical boss? Find a way to make your work environment more pleasant. Look around and see if there’s some small thing you can do to make things better for you—adding a foot rest, for example, if your seat is too high for you, or wearing really comfortable shoes if you spend a lot of time on your feet.
One powerful relaxation technique is restorative yoga. all yoga, the sequence is bending forward, backward, sideways, and twisting. The difference is that these poses are held for a long time—five or even 10 minutes. You place yourself in a pose, child’s pose, for example, but your body is supported by bolsters so that you are in complete and absolute comfort.
I invite you to try the restorative version of child’s pose.
Start child pose the usual way, but with the short end of a bolster in front of you, and then fold over it lengthwise so your body is supported by the bolster.
There are many such adaptations of yoga poses you may already know. You can get DVDs that will show you how, but I think if you are able, it’s best to visit a class or two and learn directly from a teacher.
Finally, if you absolutely can’t stop the worried, anxious chatter in your brain and you’re always wired, consider seeing a therapist for some help.
Below are some of my favorite ways to relax. everyone, I need time out for myself, even if it’s only a few minutes. I don’t always feel I have to respond immediately to help other people. I need to take care of myself first, and you do, too.
- Take warm, relaxing baths.
- Go for a walk in the park.
- Water and admire your plants.
- Fill the room with a lovely scent.
- Take a yoga class, or give yourself one.
- Listen to music.
- Have a nice visit with someone.
- Watch television.
- Go swimming.
- Give yourself enough time to do things, so you’re not always rushing.
- Laugh. This is very important. Among other things, laughter opens up the airways and pumps fresh air into your lungs. Also, it’s fun.
- Pet the cat, dog, or other pets.
I bet you have many other favorite ways to relax, things you enjoy doing. The secret is to remember to do them. Helping others helps with your stress, by the way, so why not post your favorite ways to relax and give us more ideas? (If you feel it, that is!)
- Berzin, R. (2014, July 20). 10 Reasons Why Stress Is The Most Dangerous Toxin In Your Life. Retrieved from http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-14560/10-reasons-why-stress-is-the-most-dangerous-toxin-in-your-life.html
- Krantz, D., Thorn, B., & Kiecolt-Glaser, J. (2013). How Stress Affects Your Health. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/stress-facts.pdf
© Copyright 2014 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Lynn Somerstein, PhD, NCPsyA, C-IAYT, therapist in New York City, New York
The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.
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The Physical Effects of Stress | Ohio University
Stress has become one of America’s leading health concerns. In fact, recent research performed by the American Psychological Association shows that 51 percent of women and 43 percent of men in America experience negative side effects of chronic stress.
Left untreated, the side effects associated with chronic stress can become severe, leading to unhealthy coping habits, mental health disorders, or the development of other chronic conditions, such as heart disease or diabetes. In order to combat the very real physical effects of stress, experts recommend a number of lifestyle changes to reduce the symptoms of chronic stress for Americans.
What is stress?
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, stress can be defined as “the brain’s response to any demand.” Stress can be triggered by a number of events, positive and negative, real and perceived.
Changes that trigger stress can be mild, such as riding a rollercoaster, competing for a promotion at work, or watching a scary movie. Major changes can include an unexpected loss, a wedding or divorce, or exposure to physical harm.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) indicates that there are three main types of stress, each carrying varying risks to your physical or mental health.
- Routine stress comes with the pressures of day-to-day life, such as work and family obligations
- Stress brought about by an unexpected change outside of your normal routines, such as divorce, financial issues, or a sudden change in employment status
- Traumatic stress, which occurs in a large, life-altering event, a natural disaster, terrorist attack, or assault, where one would question whether or not they are in danger
How does stress impact the body?
Not all stress is bad. In fact, many of the responses to stress such as quickened heartbeat, increased breath intake, and heightened brain function are all responses aimed to help a person survive a dangerous situation. Some stressors can even be positive, and motivate a person to be successful at work or achieve a hard-to-reach goal.
The impacts of chronic stress, however, are much more severe, as those sometimes life-saving responses to stressors have an impact on other systems. For example, when faced with periods of chronic stress, the body’s immune system function is lowered, and the digestive, excretory, and reproductive systems no longer function the way they should.
These problems typically subside once our body suspects that the threat has passed, but if the source of stress is constant, a number of physical and mental health issues can manifest.
What are the health implications associated with chronic stress?
The body responds to each of the three types of stress in similar ways, but this manifests itself in each person differently. Common symptoms of chronic stress include:
- Upset stomach
- Elevated blood pressure
- Chest pain
- Lack of motivation
- Change in appetite
- Change in sex drive
- Anger or irritability
- Difficulty sleeping
- Increased risk of developing viral infections
Left untreated, chronic stress can also exacerbate the symptoms of other chronic conditions asthma, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, depression, and anxiety.
How to manage and cope with stress
The effects of stress often manifest themselves over a long period of time. As such, adopting proactive and practical approaches to manage and cope with stress is an important practice for everyone. Some of these actions can include:
- Give up bad habits, such as excessive drinking, smoking cigarettes, or consuming too much caffeine
- Seek mental health treatment from a qualified mental health care provider, especially if you have previously used drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism, or have suicidal thoughts
- Check-in with your healthcare provider regularly about new or worsening side effects of stress
- Join an anxiety disorder support group
- Stay in touch with family members or friends who can lend a helping hand when you get too overwhelmed
- Learn to recognize the symptoms of chronic stress, and be mindful of times when you experience those symptoms more so than usual
- Make it a point to prioritize your day-to-day tasks, and say no to additional tasks that will prevent you from accomplishing your goals
- Make lists of the things you’ve accomplished–not the things you were unable to do
- Exercise on a regular basis and consider a change in diet to reduce stress and to improve your mood
Stress is a normal part of our day-to-day lives and responses can be triggered by a number of situations. Although not all forms of stress are bad, prolonged exposure to stressors can lead to a number of physical and mental health issues and exacerbate already existing chronic conditions.
For the nearly 50 percent of Americans who voice concerns about chronic stress, there are actions people can take in order to better manage their symptoms. Every person experiences stress to varying degrees, and as such, implementing an individualized self-care routine is important when combating the physical effects of stress.
With stress being such a common factor in today’s society, it will be important for the next generation of nurses to be able to assess and help patients deal with day-to-day and chronic stressors.
Through Ohio University’s comprehensive Master of Science in Nursing program, active registered nurses will advance their education and gain the skills necessary to help patients from all walks of life treat these conditions.
America Psychological Association, “Americans Engage in Unhealthy Behaviors to Manage Stress”
National Institue of Mental Health, “5 Things You Should Know About Stress”
City of St. Louis, Missouri, “Good Stress & Bad Stress — Know the Difference”
7 Strange Things Stress Can Do to Your Body
Stress is part of life — and it’s not always a bad thing. Sometimes it gives you the motivation you need for hitting a deadline or performing your best. But unmanaged or prolonged stress can wreak havoc on your body, resulting in unexpected aches, pains and other symptoms.
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“Stress doesn’t necessarily cause certain conditions, but it can make the symptoms of those conditions worse,” says Richard Lang, MD, MPH, Chairman of Preventive Medicine and Vice Chairman of the Wellness Institute. “When physical symptoms worsen, they may in turn increase a person’s level of stress, which results in a vicious circle.”
Stress can do some strange things to your body, affecting it in various places:
1. Muscles and joints
Stress can cause pain, tightness or soreness in your muscles, as well as spasms of pain. It can lead to flare-ups of symptoms of arthritis, fibromyalgia and other conditions. That’s because stress lowers your threshold for pain.
2. Heart and lungs
Too much of the stress hormone cortisol may make heart and lung conditions worse. These include heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and asthma. If you have pain or tightness in your chest or heart palpitations, see a doctor as soon as possible to rule out a serious condition.
3. Skin and hair
If you have a skin condition such as eczema, rosacea or psoriasis, stress can make it worse. It also can lead to hives and itchiness, excessive sweating and even hair loss.
Stress really shows in your digestive system — from simpler symptoms such as pain, gas, diarrhea and constipation to more complex conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome and acid reflux (GERD).
5. Shoulders, head and jaw
Doctors call this the “tension triangle.” Stress can trigger tension headaches, tightness in the neck and jaw, and knots and spasms in your neck and shoulders. It also may contribute to TMJ, a jaw disorder.
RELATED: Your Jaw May Be to Blame for Your Migraine Headaches
6. Immune system
You need a strong immune system to fight disease, but stress weakens your body’s defenses. It makes you more ly to catch colds or the flu, for example. It also may make autoimmune conditions such as lupus and inflammatory bowel disease worse.
7. Mental health
Stress can bring on symptoms of depression and reduce your enthusiasm for activities you usually enjoy — from everyday hobbies to sex. People also tend to eat poorly and exercise less when stressed, which only makes symptoms stronger.
Feeling down in the dumps because of stress is not a personal failing. It happens to most of us, so don’t be afraid to reach out for help. “We can treat the symptoms,” Dr. Lang says, “but the real key is to find and treat the cause of the problem.”
RELATED: 5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Ignore Your Mental Health
Good Stress, Bad Stress
Feeling stressed can feel perfectly normal, especially during exam time. You might notice that sometimes being stressed-out motivates you to focus on your work, yet at other times, you feel incredibly overwhelmed and can’t concentrate on anything.
While stress affects everyone in different ways, there are two major types of stress: stress that’s beneficial and motivating — good stress — and stress that causes anxiety and even health problems — bad stress.
Here’s more on the benefits and side effects of stress and how to tell if you’re experiencing too much stress.
Benefit of Stress
According to experts, stress is a burst of energy that basically advises you on what to do. In small doses, stress has many advantages. For instance, stress can help you meet daily challenges and motivates you to reach your goals. In fact, stress can help you accomplish tasks more efficiently. It can even boost memory.
Stress is also a vital warning system, producing the fight-or-flight response. When the brain perceives some kind of stress, it starts flooding the body with chemicals epinephrine, norepinephrine and cortisol.
This creates a variety of reactions such as an increase in blood pressure and heart rate.
Plus, the senses suddenly have a laser- focus so you can avoid physically stressful situations — such as jumping away from a moving car — and be safe.
In addition, there are various health benefits with a little bit of stress. Researchers believe that some stress can help to fortify the immune system.
For instance, stress can improve how your heart works and protect your body from infection.
In one study, individuals who experienced moderate levels of stress before surgery were able to recover faster than individuals who had low or high levels.
Side Effects of Stress
Stress is key for survival, but too much stress can be detrimental. Emotional stress that stays around for weeks or months can weaken the immune system and cause high blood pressure, fatigue, depression, anxiety and even heart disease. In particular, too much epinephrine can be harmful to your heart. It can change the arteries and how their cells are able to regenerate.
Signals of Too Much Stress
It may be tough to tell when you’re experiencing good or bad stress, but there are important ways that your body lets you know that you’re struggling with too much stress. Watch out for the following warning signs:
• Inability to concentrate or complete tasks• Get sick more often with colds • Body aches• Other illnesses autoimmune diseases flare up• Headaches• Irritability • Trouble falling sleeping or staying awake• Changes in appetite
• More angry or anxious than usual
What You Can Do
Stress is an inevitable part of life, but you can improve the way you respond to stress and avoid or change some of the situations that create negative stress. Check out our article in managing stress for more tips.