WHAT IS STRESS?
Stress is a reaction to change or to situations that we perceive to be threatening. It can be associated with positive experiences (marriage, a birth, etc.) or negative experiences (financial worries, job loss, death of a loved one, etc.).
It’s important to recognize that the way you feel about a situation plays an important role in triggering stress. A situation that is stressful for one person might not be for another, and vice versa. The causes and intensity of stress involve some individual variability.
While we all feel stress from time to time, when it’s long lasting or chronic, it may begin to affect our mental health.
When stress interferes with your everyday life and causes you to stop doing the things that you love, consider taking action to take care of yourself and your health.
Though stress can be challenging to deal with, many things are within your control to help minimize and manage stress.
PSYCHOLOGICAL EFFECTS OF STRESS
Stress can cause psychological and emotional distress. When it becomes chronic, it can increase your risk for anxiety and depression.
Chronic stress can have a negative effect on your body and mind and create a multitude of unpleasant physical and psychological symptoms. For example, it can cause tension, leading to muscle pain and headaches, or memory issues.
Mental health conditions that may be linked to stress include:
- substance use difficulties
- sleep issues
- chronic pain
THE BIOLOGY OF STRESS AND MENTAL HEALTH
Within seconds of perceiving a stressor, the brain signals serotonin and adrenaline to be released. Those chemicals are quickly followed by stress hormones, which impact regulate areas of the brain important for memory and regulating emotions.
When facing danger, the body engages the fight, flight, or freeze response. While this works well when running away from a tiger, it’s less effective for chronic stress like an endlessly demanding job. Over time this stress response can wear you down, mentally, and physically.
What causes stress for one person may be different for another. Stress often happens if you feel high pressure or are trying to meet a deadline. It can also arise if there’s a threat to your health.
Mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression may make some people feel more easily stressed than others.
Common causes of stress include:
- health problems
- job stability
- family responsibilities
- life changes
- poor sleep or diet
- a history of trauma
TIPS FOR MANAGING STRESS
There are many ways you can take charge of your stress. Here are some ideas to assist in managing the stress you’re faced with and improve how your body and brain respond to stressors.
- Stay active and exercise regularly
- Explore relaxation techniques
- Connect with others
- See a healthcare professional