Some types of stress are normal and necessary, which force us into action, whether that action is planting a garden, meeting a deadline, or escaping from danger. In fact, stress has been the force behind much of our progress throughout the years. But when stress becomes a frequent occurrence, our health, goals, and relationships can all suffer. That’s because stress can affect our moods and our ability to think clearly. It can also weaken our immune system and make us more susceptible to getting sick.
Symptoms of stress
The following changes may be signs that you are overly stressed:
- Changes in appetite or weight
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed
- Sadness, guilt, or feelings of irritability
- Constant negative thoughts
How stress affects the body
Chronically high levels of stress may suppress immunity, leaving you more vulnerable to sickness. Stress can increase blood pressure, blood sugar, and triglycerides - all big factors that can increase your risk of hypertension and heart problems. Stress can also affect your gastrointestinal system causing heartburn, indigestion, nausea, or stomach pains. Stress can affect other areas of your body as well. It is important to identify if you are under a constant amount of stress early on in order to avoid health issues over time.
Coping with stress looks different for every person as we are all unique, however, the following can help with stress levels:
- Identify what is causing you stress
- Consider strategies to overcome your stress ( working fewer hours, taking more breaks)
- Talk to others about how you’re feeling - friends, family, coworkers, a therapist
- Consider taking a course or class on stress management
- EXERCISE! Physical activity is great for the mind and body - make sure to get up and MOVE each day
- Meditate or take ten minutes to decompress in a quiet space
- Eat healthier
Stress is a natural and helpful bodily reaction, however, chronic stress may negatively affect health. Stress management techniques and coping mechanisms such as therapy, exercise, meditation, a healthy diet, and participating in hobbies can help reduce stress levels. Speak with your trainer, doctor, or therapist if you’re feeling chronically stressed and need support to manage it.