Why should I pay attention to stress?
Too much or unmanaged stress can harm your health. Chronic stress is especially harmful, and its effects are long-lasting. When you’re under stress, your body releases hormones called cortisol and adrenaline. This causes blood pressure and blood sugar to rise, increasing your heart disease and diabetes risk, while also decreasing immune function, making you more susceptible to illness. In fact, people with a high degree of unmanaged stress are twice as likely to suffer a heart attack as people with low levels of stress. In addition, stress can impact your ability to make positive decisions. It becomes difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle in the presence of too much stress. If you have been diagnosed with or are at risk of heart disease, it is critically important to make heart-healthy decisions.
What are the symptoms?
Stress has many physical effects, such as muscle tension, fatigue, difficulty sleeping, headaches, back pain, stomach problems, loss of appetite and frequent illnesses. There are also several common mental and emotional effects, such as tension and irritability, sadness, powerlessness, fear and anxiety, anger, trouble concentrating, loss of interest in normal activities and forgetfulness. People under stress may exhibit behavioral effects such as crying, overeating, physical inactivity and increased use of alcohol or drugs.
How can I manage stress?
When life gets stressful, it’s so important to take care of yourself – physically, mentally and emotionally. Eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly and get plenty of sleep. Maintain a normal routine, but find time to do something nice for yourself, like a massage or a yoga class. Avoid drugs and alcohol. Spend time with loved ones, and talk to someone you trust, like a family member or counselor. To keep stress at bay, you must first know why it happens. Understanding what makes you feel stressed can help you manage difficult events and situations. Try keeping a stress journal for a few weeks. Write down things that created stress for you, how you responded to them and to what degree your response was helpful. Relaxation techniques, time management, physical activity and simple laughter are all good techniques for managing stress.