You know the effects of short-term stress on your body – nervousness, sweaty hands, rapid breathing, a clenched jaw. And if you’ve ever been in a life-threatening situation, you know about the fight or flight response that kicks your adrenaline even further into high gear. (If not, just imagine being chased by a very hungry lion.) This response was designed to protect your body in an emergency by preparing you to react quickly.
Most stress is natural and even helpful, but if your stress response keeps firing day after day, your health could be put at serious risk.
Common Effects of Stress
Stress may be affecting your health without you even being aware of it. Your pounding headache, irritating insomnia, or decreased energy may not be due to illness but to stress.
Symptoms of stress on your body can include:
- Muscle tension
- Chest pain
- Sleep problems
- Upset stomach
- Weakened immune system
- High blood pressure
- Fertility problems
- Increased risk for heart attacks or stroke
- Skin and hair issues
How To Manage Your Stress
Although stress is part of our normal lives, it doesn’t mean you can’t be proactive and take control of it. Seek active ways to manage your stress. Watching Netflix, surfing social media, or playing video games may seem to work at first, but they may increase your stress over the long term.
Try these techniques to actively manage your stress:
- Participate in regular physical activity or exercise
- Spend time with family and friends
- Make time for hobbies like reading a book, listening to music, or gardening
- Get plenty of sleep
- Practice relaxation techniques, like deep breathing, meditation, yoga, or massage
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet
- Avoid tobacco use, excess caffeine and alcohol, and the use of illegal substances
Find Your Peace
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Call 911 or the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) if you’re having thoughts of suicide.