What is Stress?
Stress is simply your body’s response to a stimulus. There are two main types of stress:
- Acute Stress: response to a specific event, such as a car accident or argument.
- Chronic Stress: results from continual pressures, such as financial difficulties, academic problems, overwhelming responsibilities or problematic relationships.
It is important to note, that stress does not always occur due to negative experiences. Positive experiences, such as entering college or the beginning of a new relationship can also cause stress.
Symptoms of Stress
- Changes in eating patterns, such as losing your appetite or overeating.
- Tightness and pain in your neck, shoulders, back and head.
- Forgetfulness and/or a lack of focus.
- Tiredness and fatigue.
- Moodiness and irritability.
- Either sleeping too much or suffering from insomnia.
Consult with a health care provider is you experience panic attacks, sleep problems, anxiety or depression, severe fatigue or other problems that last for 2 weeks and interfere with daily functions.
Effects Stress has on Your Health
- Makes your body more susceptible to illness, especially colds and the flu.
- Increases your heart rate and blood pressure, as well as increases your risk for angina (chest pain), arrhythmia (irregular heart rhythm) and cardiovascular disease.
- Digestive problems.
- Worsens breathing difficulties, including bronchitis and asthma.
- Increases your risk for developing certain types of cancer.
- Can lead to severe anxiety and/or depression.
How to Manage Stress
- Exercise on a regular basis. Physical activity will trigger mood-enhancing brain chemicals and the body’s natural stress fighters.
- Eat a healthy diet to provide your body with a good supply of natural stress-fighting nutrients.
- Get plenty of sleep. Most people need 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night to feel fully rested and refreshed.
- Practice relaxation techniques daily, such as meditation, progressive relaxation, and deep breathing.
- Avoid managing stress with drugs, alcohol or medications (unless prescribed by a health care provider).
- Learn how to prioritize your time. Use to-do lists, and engage only in activities that help you reach your personal goals.
- Ask for help from friends, family or a health care professional.