How to Cope with the Effects of Stress

by Melissa Chichester

A health scare. Work. Kids. Infertility. Money. Losing a job. There are hundreds of obstacles in life that cause people to feel stress, and most people accept stress as a part of life. But the symptoms of stress have the ability to make a negative impact on your health. You may not even notice it. 

Stress is so strong that it can impact more than your physical health, but it can also influence your behavior, cognitive function, and your feelings. And left unchecked, stress can cause serious complications that lead to bigger health issues. Managing stress is one of the most important things you can do to improve your well-being. 

What is stress?

In simple terms, stress is how you respond to a challenging situation. This includes sudden danger or a long-term problem.

When your body feels stress, it releases hormones. This process starts when the central nervous system fires up in response to a stressful situation. The hypothalamus in the brain sends a message to your adrenal glands to release stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline.

Your body responds by sending blood to where it is needed, including the heart and muscles. When the stress is gone, your central nervous system returns to its normal state. If the stress doesn’t go away, your body experiences chronic stress. 

How does stress impact health?

Stress impacts the body in many ways. Here are some of the most common effects of stress, according to the Mayo Clinic:

  • Physical effects: Headaches, muscle tension, fatigue, sleeping problems, low libido 
  • Mental effects: Anxiety, depression, anger and irritability, restlessness, feeling overwhelmed, lack of focus
  • Behavioral effects: Over or undereating, social withdrawal, exercising less, angry outbursts

>>An Introduction to Self-Care

How to manage stress

You might say that you don’t have time to take care of stress. To maintain health and wellness, stress management is essential. Although it is easier said than done, consider the following ways to manage your stress:

  • Exercising, even if it is just twenty minutes per day
  • Relaxation techniques, such as acupuncture, yoga, massage, and meditation
  • Make time for your hobbies 
  • Spend time with friends 
  • Eat a balanced diet 
  • Avoid alcohol and excess caffeine 

When to seek help

Sometimes, stress requires medical attention. It is important to take stress seriously if you have symptoms such as:

  • Shortness of breath, jaw or back pain, sweating, dizziness, and nausea
  • Pressure or squeezing in your chest
  • Cold sweats
  • Abdominal pain
  • Arm or neck discomfort and tightness
  • Heart palpitations 
  • Shortness of breath 

These are all common signs of a heart attack. You should seek medical help immediately if you experience any of these symptoms. And if you think you are struggling with chronic stress, discuss it with your medical practitioner for help and guidance on how to manage stress to improve your wellness.