Stress and the Harmful Effects on Your Health

Contributed by: Ann Stone, ANPWoman Stressed

Let’s face it; stress is something most of us can’t avoid. Stresses of work, family and finances lurk around just about every day. These stresses clutter our minds, often to distraction which causes more stress! Unfortunately, stress is part of life and can be quite harmful to our health.

There are at least three different types of stress, all of which carry physical and mental health risks:

  • Routine stress related to work, family and other daily responsibilities
  • Stress brought about by a sudden negative change, such as the loss of a loved one, job loss, or illness
  • Traumatic stress, experienced in an event like a major accident, war, assault, or natural disaster

The body responds to each type of stress in similar ways. Different people may feel it in different ways. For example, some of us experience digestive symptoms, while others may have headaches, sleeplessness, depressed mood, anger and irritability. Those who suffer from chronic stress are prone to more frequent illnesses such as the common cold or flu.  Of all of the types of stress, changes in health from routine stress may be the hardest to notice until symptoms start. Over time, continued strain on your body from routine stress may lead to serious health problems, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, anxiety disorder and migraines.

Coping with Stress

Taking practical steps to maintain your health can reduce and prevent the effects of stress. I recommend trying these tips to help you cope with stress:

  • Recognize signs of your body’s response to stress. Difficulty sleeping, being easily angered or irritated, feeling depressed, having low or no energy, increased alcohol and other substance use.
  • Set priorities. Decide what must get done and what can wait and learn to say no to new tasks if they are causing you to feel overwhelmed.
  • Don’t dwell on problems. Try to relax your brain especially before going to sleep so your body gets the rest it needs.
  • Exercise at least 30 minutes per day. Exercise helps boost mood and reduce stress.
  • Explore stress coping programs such as ones we offer through our Integrative Medicine program. Acupuncture, massage therapy, reflexology, yoga therapy, Pilates therapy and Tai Chi are great for stress relief and promote relaxation.
  • Ask for help from family members, friends or others you feel comfortable confiding in.
  • Seek help from your doctor if you are overwhelmed or depressed. At the Women’s Center, our psychiatry and behavioral health experts offer individualized treatment plans for females and males of all ages. Families are welcome as well.

Any of these options are great stress relievers but it’s best to start with learning what brings on stress in your life. Take our assessment to help you identify your life “stressors.”

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