Stress is a part of life. Occasional, mild stress can help you focus or finish a task. But long-term, chronic stress can cause physical symptoms and lead to feelings of overwhelm and burnout. It is important to learn to manage stress in order to stay healthy.
Every individual experiences stress differently, and everyone has different triggers for stress. For example, some people feel energized by an active social life, while others may find this overwhelming.
Some stressors are unavoidable, like the death of a loved one or going through a divorce. Other stressors may be part of a positive life event, like getting married or starting a new job. Healthy coping mechanisms can enable you to deal with these events without becoming overwhelmed.
Signs of stress
Cortisol is a hormone that is released when someone experiences stress. In the short-term, it can jumpstart body systems that help someone deal with an immediate problem or dangerous situation. Long-term, however, cortisol can affect the immune system and make it easier to get sick.
Physical symptoms of stress may include:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Pain in your jaw
- Appetite changes
- Mood swings
- Trouble concentrating
- Deteriorating mental health
Why you should manage stress
The relationship between mental health awareness and stress is strong. Stress can also cause or worsen existing medical conditions, including:
- Depression and anxiety
- Sleep difficulties
- Autoimmune disease
- Digestive problems
- Skin problems, like eczema
- Heart disease
- Weight problems
- Reproductive issues
- Difficulty with thinking and memory
Individuals who suffer from mental illness can experience an increase in symptoms due to stress. For example, individuals with schizophrenia may experience more hallucinations and delusions while under stress. Stress can trigger episodes of mania or depression in individuals with bipolar disorder.
Ways to manage stress
It’s important to develop a toolkit of coping strategies in order to manage occasional stress.
- Getting enough sleep
- Developing a support team of family, friends, and professionals
- Eating a healthy diet
- Getting daily exercise
- Taking care of your health, including taking prescriptions and going to doctor’s appointments
- Understand your triggers and learn to avoid them or prepare for them
- Engage in daily relaxation activities, like reading a book, meditation or prayer, or going for a walk.
- Avoid alcohol, nicotine, and other drugs, which can make the stress response worse
It’s not possible to eliminate stress entirely. A healthy lifestyle that includes a number of coping strategies can help you weather the occasional storm.
Mental illness can make it difficult or impossible to deal with routine stress. If you or a loved one suffer from depression, anxiety, addiction, or other mental health problems, you may find that stress makes your condition worse.
At Flatirons Recovery, we provide mental health services that will give you the skills and support you need to manage your mental illness and cope with stress in a healthy, productive way.
You can also find more information on managing stress by visiting the CDC’s website.
HelpGuide.org. “Stress Symptoms, Signs, and Causes.” (2022). Retrieved 5 May 2022, from https://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/stress-symptoms-signs-and-causes.htm
National Alliance on Mental Illness. “Managing Stress.” (2022). Retrieved 4 May 2022, from https://www.fda.gov/media/100409/download