All About Stress!

National Institute of Mental Health:

Stress affects everyone according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Stress is how the mind and body respond to any demand when we feel the stressors exceed our ability to cope. Every type of demand or stressor such as exercise, work, school, major life changes, or traumatic events can be stressful.

Stress can affect your health. It is important to pay attention to how you deal with minor and major stress events so that you know when to seek help.

Here are five things you should know about stress:

Stress affects everyone

Everyone feels stressed from time to time. Some people may cope with stress more effectively or recover from stressful events more quickly than others recover. There are different types of stress—all of which carry physical and mental health risks. A stressor may be a one time or short-term occurrence, or it can be an occurrence that keeps happening over a long period.

Examples of stress include: 

  • Routine stress related to the pressures of work, school, family and other daily responsibilities
  • Stress brought about by a sudden negative change, such a losing a job, divorce, or illness
  • Traumatic stress experienced in an event like a major accident, war, assault, or natural disaster where people may be in danger of being seriously hurt or killed. People who experience traumatic stress often experience temporary symptoms of mental illness, but most recover naturally soon after

Not all stress is bad.

Stress can motivate people to prepare or perform, like when they need to take a test or interview for a new job. Stress can even be lifesaving in some situations. In response to danger, your body prepares to face a threat or flee to safety. In these situations, your pulse quickens, you breathe faster, your muscles tense, your brain uses more oxygen and increases activity—all functions aimed at survival.

Long-term stress can harm your health.

Health problems can occur if the stress response goes on for too long or becomes chronic, such as when the source of stress is constant, or if the response continues after the danger has subsided. With chronic stress, those same life-saving responses in your body can suppress immune, digestive, sleep, and reproductive systems, which may cause then to stop working normally.

Different people may feel stress in different ways.  For example, some people experience mainly digestive symptoms, while others may have headaches, sleeplessness, sadness, anger or irritability.  People under chronic stress are prone to more frequent and severe viral infections, such as the flu or common cold.

Routine stress may be the hardest type of stress to notice at first. Because the source of stress tends to be more constant than in cases of acute or traumatic stress, the body gets no clear signal to return to normal functioning. Over time, continued strain on your body from routine stress may contribute to serious health problems, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and other illnesses, as well as mental health disorders like depression or anxiety.

There are ways to manage stress.

The effects of stress tend to build up over time. Taking practical steps to manage your stress can reduce or prevent those effects. The following are some tips that may help you cope with stress:

  • Recognize the signs of your body’s response to stress, such as difficulty sleeping, increased alcohol and other substance use, easily angered, feeling depressed, and having low energy.
  • Talk to your doctor or health care provider. Get proper health care for existing or new health problems.
  • Get regular exercise. Just 30 minutes of walking per day can help you boost your mood and reduce stress.
  • Try a relaxing activity. Explore stress coping programs, which may incorporate meditation, yoga, tai chi, or other gentle exercises. For some stress-related conditions, these approaches are used in addition to other forms of treatment. Schedule regular times for these and other healthy relaxing activities. Learn more about these techniques on the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) website:
  • Set goals and priorities. Decide what must be done and what can wait, and learn to say no to new tasks if they are putting you into overload. Note what you have accomplished at the end of the day, not what you have been unable to do. Organize, prioritize and balance competing activities (friends, family, work, school, and social commitments).
  • Stay connected with people who can provide emotional and other support. To reduce stress, ask for help from friends, family, and community or religious organizations.

If you are overwhelmed by stress, ask for help from a health professional.

You should seek help right away if you have suicidal thoughts, are overwhelmed, feel you cannot cope, or are using drugs or alcohol to cope. Your doctor may be able to provide a recommendation. You can find a mental health provider by visiting

Anyone experiencing severe or long-term, unrelenting stress can become overwhelmed. If you or a loved one is having thoughts of suicide, call the toll-free NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION LIFELINE at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  The service is available to anyone.  All calls are confidential.

Common Effects of Stress – Mayo Clinic

On your body

On your mood

On your behavior

Muscle tension or pain


Overeating or undereating

Chest pain


Angry outbursts


Lack of motivation

Drug or alcohol misuse

Change in sex drive

Feeling overwhelmed

Tobacco use

Stomach upset

Irritability or anger

Social withdrawal


Sadness or depression

Exercising less often


Other Ways to Manage Your Stress – American Heart Association

  • Laugh out loud and smile
  • Meet a friend
  • Get moving – dance, hike, go to the gym, take a relaxing walk
  • Take slow, deep breaths
  • Use positive self-talk
  • Try meditation
  • If it’s not urgent, sleep on it and respond tomorrow
  • Walk away from the situation for a while and handle it later when things have calmed
  • Break down problems into smaller parts and take one step at a time
  • Turn on some of your favorite music to help deal with road rage
  • Take a break to pet the dog, hug a loved one or do something to help someone else
  • Read a good book
  • Make art – draw, color, paint or play a musical instrument
  • Work on a scrapbook or photo album to focus on good memories
  • Take a relaxing bath and feel the stress wash away
  • Sleep - take time to get 7-9 hours of sleep per night to help cope with stress
  • Fuel your body with good nutrition
  • Unplug – set aside your phone, laptop, and disconnect from email and social media for a little down time