Stress is the feeling we have when under pressure. Some stresses get you going, are motivating, and are good for you. However, too much stress undermines our mental and physical health. Stress can be caused by everyday matters such as work, family, and other responsibilities. It can also be brought about by a sudden negative change, such as divorce, losing a job, illness, or a major accident. Different people may feel stress in different ways. Some people experience digestive symptoms, while others may have muscle tension, headaches, insomnia, depressed mood, irritability, and fatigue. People under chronic stress are prone to more frequent viral infections, such as the flu or common cold. Over time, continued strain on your body from stress may lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, depression, and other illnesses.
Recognize your limits and learn to say 'no' to new tasks before you become overwhelmed. Schedule regular times for healthy and relaxing activities or hobbies, and make this a priority. Consider tai chi, meditation, and mindfulness. Regular exercise can improve your sleep, which is often disrupted by stress, and it can lower the symptoms associated with mild depression and anxiety. Virtually any form of exercise, from skiing to hiking to yoga, can act as a stress reliever. Stay connected with people who provide emotional and other support. Ask for help from friends, family, and community or religious organizations. Seek help from a healthcare professional if you are overwhelmed, feel you cannot cope, have suicidal thoughts, or are using drugs or alcohol to cope.
Linsey Harrison, MD
Behavioral Health Services