Stress is a normal reaction to life’s demands (or stressors). It helps you adjust to new situations by activating your physical, cognitive, and emotional resources. Stressors can be positive such as a wedding or birth of a child, negative such as the loss of a job or divorce, or neutral such a school exam or completing a work project.
However, regardless of whether the stressor is positive, negative, or neutral, if the stressor demands more from you than you are able to handle, stress can become overwhelming, severely affecting your ability to cope. Everyone’s ability to comfortably meet life’s demands is different. Unfortunately, you usually find out your limits when the demands exceed your capacity to cope resulting in becoming “stressed out.”
Being “stressed out” for a short period of time can temporarily affect your physical health (more susceptible to illnesses such as colds), your emotional wellbeing (feeling down or irritable), and your ability to think (difficulty concentrating). Chronic stress can lead to significant health issues including high blood pressure, weakened immune system, muscle tension, stomach problems, or sleep problems. It can bring on anxiety, depression, anger, substance abuse, and burn out. It can interfere with your work and interpersonal relationships.
One of the keys to managing stress and preventing yourself from becoming overwhelmed is to recognize when the stress is beginning to approach your limit. By recognizing it early, you can implement stress management strategies to strengthen your coping ability. Stress management strategies include relaxation techniques such as meditation and yoga, exercise, eating a healthy diet, setting healthy boundaries, and staying connected to the important people in your life. You may not be able to escape the severe stressors in your life but even if the stress is ongoing, by implementing stress management techniques you can break the stress up into smaller, more manageable doses.
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