Stress is a commonly discussed topic, so most people know it doesn’t do the body any favors. However, it can be hard to understand what qualifies as stress and precisely what you’re supposed to do to combat it.
In this article, we’ll unpack what stress is and what it does, as well as include some methods you can employ to protect yourself from it. This is important because the negative effects of stress are profound. The goal here is to arm you with knowledge so that you have the power to overcome this nasty foe.
What Is Stress?
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, stress is “the physical or mental response to an external cause, such as having a lot of homework or having an illness. A stressor may be a one-time or short-term occurrence, or it can happen repeatedly over a long time.”1
This definition demonstrates that stresses can be physical as well as mental or emotional. In any case, stress tends to send the nervous system into high gear, preparing you to either defend yourself or flee to safety (sympathetic arousal).
In the short term, this can be beneficial, motivating you to accomplish something, helping you to avoid danger, or otherwise giving you a jolt to get you through a difficult moment. However, if the stressor is long-term, or if you are hit with one after another, this constant state of arousal begins to wear the body down.
The Impacts Of Stress
As previously mentioned, stress affects both body and mind. If it’s ongoing, you’ll soon find yourself in trouble. Your physical, mental, and emotional health will all begin to suffer. The Mayo Clinic demonstrates this clearly in the following table of common impacts of stress2:
On your body
On your mood
On your behavior
Overeating or undereating
Muscle tension or pain
Lack of motivation or focus
Drug or alcohol misuse
Change in sex drive
Irritability or anger
Sadness or depression
Exercising less often
Clearly, this is an array of unwanted effects that it’s important to be on the lookout for. Being aware of the symptoms of stress can help you to act before being led in the direction of disease. Stress is a factor in conditions ranging from Alzheimer’s to asthma with links to diabetes and heart disease!
How To Reduce Stress
Life will always entail challenges, so eliminating stress completely is impossible. However, keeping it under control and working to have gaps between episodes is a solid plan. Some tried-and-true stress-busting techniques are:
- Exercise- getting physical movement3, especially outdoors, is great for overall health and helps to reduce and alleviate stress.
- Meditation- many studies4 demonstrate the effectiveness of mindfulness meditation in stress reduction.
- Laughter- making a point to do things that bring you joy not only nips stress in the bud, it also makes life more fun.
- Connection- spending time with people you love and doing things you enjoy together puts stressors in perspective and keeps your focus on the good in life.
- Reframing- if something is troubling you, trying to see it from a different angle can make a world of difference. For example, you can look for what can be learned from the situation, remind yourself that thoughts are not facts, and remember that everything changes. Each of these can help alter your perspective and bring relief from stress.
1: I'm So Stressed Out! Fact Sheet. (n.d.). NIMH. Retrieved July 21, 2022, from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/so-stressed-out-fact-sheet
2: Stress symptoms: Effects on your body and behavior. (n.d.). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved July 21, 2022, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-symptoms/art-20050987
3: Gladwell, V. F. (2013, January 3). The great outdoors: how a green exercise environment can benefit all. NCBI. Retrieved July 22, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3710158/
4: Mindfulness meditation: A research-proven way to reduce stress. (2019, October 30). American Psychological Association. Retrieved July 22, 2022, from https://www.apa.org/topics/mindfulness/meditation
Published: July 25, 2022