Understanding and Managing Stress

What is stress?
Stress is the body’s physical, mental, and emotional reaction to change.  The body responds to stressors or danger by resorting to a fight-or-flight response, resulting in increased breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure.  While a little bit of stress (called eustress) can be useful by keeping you alert or by helping you deal with a dangerous situation, chronic stress or distress can have a detrimental effect on your health.  As a result of our stressful lives and because our bodies do not differentiate danger from stressors, what is supposed to be a burst of energy for survival results in chronic stress with many health consequences. This is why understanding and managing stress is very vital and beneficial to your health. 

How does chronic stress affect my health?
Chronic stress can increase your risk for numerous health and behavioral problems, and it’s important to be aware of these health risks that can occur in your own body.

Mental / Emotional Effects

  • Poor concentration/focus
  • Decrease in performance
  • Feeling anxious
  • Feeling upset, irritable, angry
  • Feeling overwhelmed, helpless
  • Mind racing
  • Depression

Physical Effects

  • Heart Disease
  • Autoimmune Disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Decreased immune system
  • Muscle tension
  • Headaches
  • Chest or stomach discomfort
  • Trembling or shaking

Fortunately, there are many ways to help manage stress and to target these specific components of health.  Through proper stress management, these harmful effects of stress can be avoided or diminished. We can be in control of how we react to intense situations in our lives. Here are some helpful tips in how to manage your day to day stressors. 

11 Tips for managing Stress

  • Get moving! Exercise can be a great stress-buster. 
  • Enjoy natural sunlight, especially in the winter. 
  • Use deep breathing. Breathe in slowly for five counts and out for five counts. Continue to do this for a few minutes. Breathing slowly helps to reduce your heart rate and decrease your stress.  
  • Make time for yourself every day. Set aside five to ten minutes of personal time.  
  • Focus on others and help them reduce their own stress. 
  • Inspire yourself. Have a list of motivational sayings that inspire and strengthen your resolve. 
  • Eat healthy. Food provides us with energy, which revitalizes our body and helps us think more clearly. 
  • Take a bubble bath. Warm water is a great way to relax the muscles and the mind. 
  • Find the humor in things and engage in activities that make you laugh. Rent a funny movie or play a game. Laughter releases tension.  
  • Listen to your favorite music. Pay attention to how certain songs make you feel and keep listening to the ones that produce a relaxing effect.  
  • Get enough sleep. Aim for eight hours of sleep every night.