Our body reacts to stress by producing stress hormones, specifically cortisol and adrenalin that cause an increase in heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood pressure. Stress is not always a bad thing — it allows us to react and confront each situation that we are faced with. However, chronic stress causes wear and tear on our bodies and produces negative health effects. Too much stress for a constant, extended period of time can predispose an individual to an increased risk of morbidity and premature mortality. In addition, unhealthy choices in how you manage your stress cause cumulative negative effects on your health and well-being.
Where do you fall on this continuum?
1 — I’m creatively and cheerfully engaged in life.
2 — I’m relaxed and expect to stay this way.
3–5 — I can handle stresses and think of positive solutions to my challenges.
6–7 — I’m moderately irritable, anxious or overwhelmed, and stresses feel burdensome.
8 — My problems seem unsolvable. Many things are irritating or upsetting me.
9 — Help! I’m about to lose it!
10 — I have chart-topping negative emotions
(American Heart Association, 2014)
The Negative Effects of Stress
When stressors are always present, our “fight or flight” response is always activated. Over exposure of our body to cortisol and adrenalin disrupts our body’s processes and puts you at risk for:
- Digestive problems
- Heart disease
- Sleep problems
- Weight gain
- Memory and concentration impairment
- Sexual dysfunction
- Muscle aches & pain
What is stress management?
Our minds and bodies deserve a break from the overwhelming amount of stress and worry that we may feel on a daily basis at work, at school, and at home. While stress can be beneficial in problem-solving situations, too much stress for prolonged periods of time can be detrimental to our health and can, in a sense, hijack our lives. It’s important to incorporate strategies and solutions to minimize stress for the purpose of promoting a happier, healthier you.
Don’t let stress control your life!
Strategies to Help Limit and Reduce Stress
- Get up 15 minutes earlier in the morning – the extra time in the morning can get you off on the right foot.
- Don’t rely on your memory. Write down important meeting times, due dates, etc.
- Avoid negative people.
- Be flexible. A contingency plan is always a good idea for the unexpected.
- Be assertive. If you have too much going on, know that you have the right to decline. When we have too much on our plate, we do not accomplish things in a timely manner and become anxious. Limiting your commitments will help you balance your schedule and the outcomes are more effective.
- Limit distractions when you are trying to accomplish a task. Unplug the phone, turn off the TV, avoid checking e-mail, etc.
- Simplify meals.
- Schedule daily exercise.