Stress Harms Us Physically
While people are often aware of the psychological consequences of leading an overly-stressed life, there are also a lot of physical symptoms that follow from too much stress.
For example, according to the American Psychological Association, stress can cause muscle tension, breathing problems, heart problems , blood sugar spikes, heartburn, acid reflux, digestion problems, and problems to both the female and male reproductive systems. Other physical symptoms of stress include fatigue, sleep problems, and headaches .
While stress can lead to physical symptoms in the general population, stress can also exacerbate physical symptoms in more specific situations. For example, Marital stress leads to worse cardiovascular outcomes for married women with coronary heart disease .
Work stress can lead to an increased risk for cardiovascular disease , as well as an increased risk of mortality from CVD . Among men with HIV, stress can even lead to worse AIDS-related outcomes .
Simple Ways To Reduce Stress
Just as the experience of stress itself is different for everyone, the factors and triggers that cause it vary as well. However, if you know the situations and environments that enhance your stress levels, you can effectively handle them. When you are fully aware and in tune with your body and its natural responses, you can take preventive measures to avoid feelings of stress in the first place.
Simply getting outside for some fresh air can help ease stress.
What Happens When You Are Stressed
Stress is what you feel when you have to handle more than you are used to. When you are stressed, your body responds as though you are in danger. It makes hormones that speed up your heart, make you breathe faster, and give you a burst of energy. This is called the fight-or-flight stress response.
Some stress is normal and even useful. Stress can help if you need to work hard or react quickly. For example, it can help you win a race or finish an important job on time.
But if stress happens too often or lasts too long, it can have bad effects. It can be linked to headaches, an upset stomach, back pain, and trouble sleeping. It can weaken your immune system, making it harder to fight off disease. If you already have a health problem, stress may make it worse. It can make you moody, tense, or depressed. Your relationships may suffer, and you may not do well at work or school.
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Ways To Manage Stress
Acute stress is a normal part of life. Acute refers to the kind of stress that results from having to run to catch a bus. Almost everyone experiences this kind of stress from time to time.
Stress can be good in small doses, though. When your body is under stress your brain releases special hormones. These hormones cause your brain activity to increase, raise your pulse, and cause muscle tension. Stress is your bodys way of giving you an extra edge in a difficult situation. However, sustained stress, or chronic stress, can have negative health effects. Thats the kind of stress we experience when every day includes a long commute, negative interactions at work, worry about ongoing problems, or a feeling of being overwhelmed by the demands of life.
Be More Realistic About Your Capabilities
It is helpful to remember that most people underestimate how long it will take to do something, and overestimate how much they can do. This means that they end up taking on too much, and then failing to deliver.
Develop the simple habit of doubling your time estimates for any task.
You are then far more likely to under-promise and over-deliver. This will make everyoneincluding youmuch happier than the other way round .
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Change Stressors When You Can
Some stress is unavoidable and the best you can do is to manage it. Some things are within your control. For example, if you know that grocery shopping on Sunday evening stresses you out because the lines are always long and everyones picked through the best produce before you get there, change your schedule and shop on another night.
Changing simple things in your life can add up and greatly reduce your overall stress.
Limit Your Work Hours
When speaking of setting work-life boundaries, a limited work schedule is equally important. We will show you why it is advisable to limit your work hours.
The problem it solves: Working around the clock
Just because youre used to commuting to your workspace in your slippers doesnt mean you dont need a start and an end to your workday. I suppose there are days when you accidentally work from dawn to dusk because there is so much work to be done. Maybe you even forget to have lunch because you got caught up in a workload. Working from home is not an excuse nor a reason to work all day. Precisely these are the factors that blur the line between work and home, when we talk about time. But dont worry, we have solutions to your problem.
How to limit your work hours
First and foremost, set work hours. Yes, you do need structure, even when working remotely. There are some tools that can assist you in tracking your time spent working. Take breaks every 90 minutes, to avoid exhaustion, or try out the famous Pomodoro technique.
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Simple Ways To Reduce Stress In Your Daily Life
Although our culture may lead us to believe otherwise, not all stress is negative.
There are times when a heightened level of awareness, or the feeling of being slightly overwhelmed, can help you approach and handle a situation. For athletes who feel stressed before a game, that added boost of energy can help them run faster and play harder. Feelings of unease before a deadline at work can be beneficial for performance, giving you the drive to do well.
Simple ways to reduce stress in your daily life include daily exercise – both aerobic and stretching activities like yoga.
However, according to the American Psychological Association, consistent or extreme stress can be harmful to your health.
While your bodys natural defenses are equipped to handle small and common periods of stress, chronic stress has been known to lead to high blood pressure, anxiety, obesity and insomnia.
Chronic stress has even been attributed to major illnesses including heart disease, research has found. Oftentimes, those experiencing extreme stress turn toward unhealthy methods of coping. Habits such as overeating, using drugs or alcohol, working too hard, spending excessive time alone and similar unhealthy practices in turn lead to poor health outcomes.
Here at the Pritikin Longevity Center, we promote a healthy mind and body connection by teaching you how to manage and cope with stress.
- Healthy Mind, Healthy Body
- Listening and Being Heard
- Managing Your Moods
Find Your Pause Button
After experiencing times of great change, high demand, or significant loss, its essential to press pause and rest. Often creating time and space for rest means saying no to invitations and requests for help, at least temporarily, says Callahan. Consider spending quiet time daily: contemplation, reflection, and breathing fosters resilience and calm.
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Women Become More Prosocial Men Become More Antisocial
While we have seen how stress can affect people differently depending on their situations, sex is another variable to account for, as stress seems to affect men and women in different ways.
For example, one study looked at the effect of stress on the self-other distinction, a social skill that affects ones ability to empathize with and understand others .
Researchers interestingly found that stressed women exhibited a higher self-other distinction than non-stressed women, while stressed men exhibited a lower self-other distinction than non-stressed men. This indicates that stress may potentially play a prosocial role in women and a more antisocial role in men.
Stress affects men and women differently in other ways as well. One study found that, when faced with a stressor, boys are more likely to engage in risk-taking behaviors, while girls are less likely to engage in risk-taking behaviors after exposure to the same stressor .
Another study found a greater association between stress and increased alcohol consumption in men than in women . Similarly, a study examining recent Hispanic immigrants to the United States found that stress from this immigration was associated with more severe alcohol use in men, but not in women .
Men and women respond differently to stressful events in other ways as well. One study looking at earthquake survivors 10 months after an earthquake found that women showed more post-traumatic stress symptoms than men .
What Happens To My Body When I Experience Stress
People react differently to stress. Some common symptoms of stress include sleeping problems, sweating or a change in appetite.6,7
Symptoms like these are triggered by a rush of stress hormones in your body which, when released, allow you to deal with pressures or threats. This is known as the ‘fight or flight’ response.
Hormones called adrenaline and noradrenaline raise your blood pressure, increase your heart rate and increase the rate at which you perspire. This prepares your body for an emergency response.8 These hormones can also reduce blood flow to your skin and reduce your stomach activity. Cortisol, another stress hormone, releases fat and sugar into your system to boost your energy.9
As a result, you may experience headaches, muscle tension, pain, nausea, indigestion and dizziness. You may also breathe more quickly, have palpitations or suffer from various aches and pains. In the long-term, you may be putting yourself at risk from heart attacks and stroke.10
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Ways To Relax Your Mind
- Write. It may help to write about things that are bothering you. Write for 10 to 15 minutes a day about stressful events and how they made you feel. Or think about tracking your stress. This helps you find out what is causing your stress and how much stress you feel. After you know, you can find better ways to cope.
- Let your feelings out. Talk, laugh, cry, and express anger when you need to. Talking with friends, family, a counselor, or a member of the clergy about your feelings is a healthy way to relieve stress.
- Do something you enjoy. You may feel that you’re too busy to do these things. But making time to do something you enjoy can help you relax. It might also help you get more done in other areas of your life. Try:
- A hobby, such as gardening.
- A creative activity, such as writing, crafts, or art.
- Playing with and caring for pets.
- Volunteer work.
In addition to practicing these skills, you might also try some other techniques to reduce stress, such as massage or music therapy.
How To Limit Stress: Start By Examining Your Pace
This article was published more than 7 years ago. Some information may no longer be current.
Theresa AlbertRacheal McCaig Photography
Our culture values speed, achievement and excellence and yet I constantly hear the contradictory message, “slow down, you move too fast.” Which led me to ask these questions, on a recent girls’ weekend in the fastest place on Earth, New York City: What is a healthy pace, anyway? Am I moving too fast? Is going fast actually stressful in and of itself?
Travelling with six women with six different styles, expectations, and speeds, and having each one end up rested/exhilarated/restored/re-clothed was a fine balance. It all rested upon our perceptions of stress, our ability to communicate our needs, and the systems in place to achieve our goals. It was a specific situation, but representative of so many people’s day to day struggles with stress.
There is plenty of evidence to support that it isn’t the fact that stress exists that is the killer, but rather, it is our perception of it. How we manage our own pace and thoughts around it is a very individual thing.
External forces that are pushing, pulling or tearing will only do the damage that we perceive they can. New York City is a cacophony of sound, humanity and smells along with multitudes of demands on time and money. How we were each going to get the most out of every day, without stress, would be telling.
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Learn To Recognize Stressful Thinking
Paying attention to stressful thoughts may help you reduce them.
Mindfulness-based stress reduction is a strategy that involves becoming more self-aware of stress-provoking thoughts, accepting them without judgment or resistance, and allowing yourself the ability to process them .
Training yourself to be aware of your thoughts, breathing, heart rate, and other signs of tension helps you recognize stress when it begins .
Recognizing stressful thoughts allows you to formulate a conscious and deliberate reaction to them. For example, a study involving 43 women in a mindfulness-based program showed the ability to describe and articulate stress was linked to a lower cortisol response (
Tending to your own happiness can help keep cortisol down. If youre feeling stressed, try listening to music or making yourself laugh.
Social And Job Issues That Can Cause Stress
- Your surroundings. Living in an area where overcrowding, crime, pollution, or noise is a problem can create chronic stress.
- 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.
- Your job. Being unhappy with your work or finding your job too demanding can lead to chronic stress. Learn how to manage job stress.
- Unemployment. Losing your job or not being able to find work can also add to your stress level.
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Helpful Organisations For Money Worries
It is important if you are worried about your finances and debts that you do not try to deal with them alone. There is a lot of help and support available to you through organisations such as Step Change and Citizens Advice.
You should also talk to your GP or a trusted health professional if you are worried about how debt is affecting your mental and physical health.
Tips To Manage Stressful Situations
It might surprise you to learn that biological stress is a fairly recent discovery. It wasnt until the late 1950s that endocrinologist Hans Selye first identified and documented stress.
Symptoms of stress existed long before Selye, but his discoveries led to new research that has helped millions cope with stress. Weve compiled a list of the top 10 ways to relieve stress.
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Reflecting On Your Stress
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.
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