What is Stress?
Stress is a normal reaction to change or a challenge we may be facing. Everyone feels stressed at times. Some people cope with stress more effectively or recover from stressful events quicker than others. Unfortunately, stress that continues for longer than a few weeks can affect your health.1
There are two main types of stress:2
Acute stress: A short-term stress that goes away quickly. You might experience this when you have to slam on the brakes while driving, or have a fight with your partner, ski down a steep slope, or when you do something new and exciting.
Chronic stress: A stress that lasts for a longer period of time due to longer lasting causes of stress like money problems, unhappy marriage, or trouble at work. Chronic stress that lasts for weeks or months.
What are symptoms?
Minor symptoms of stress can be early warning signs that your stress levels may be getting out of hand and that you may need help finding ways to reduce stress in your life.3,4
- Feeling tired without a good reason
- Trouble sleeping
- Out of control
- Easilty irritated
- Speaking and eating very fast
- Drinking alcohol, eating, or smoking to calm down
- Rushing around, but not able to get much done
- Working too much
- Delaying doing the things that need to be done
- Trying to do too many things at once
What causes Stress?
Having a “Type A” personality that causes you to constantly rush, be angry, hostile, or competitive can foster stress.5 Stressors in you life might include: family, work, relationships, money or health problems.6 Some of us have harmful habits or traits that create our own stress.7 We are all different, our lives are different, our situations are different, and our reactions are different. A tailored stress reduction treatment plan is best, not all stress reduction techniques work for all people.3 A poll by the American Psychological Association in 2007 found that one-third of people in the U.S. report feeling extreme levels of stress. One-in-five people polled reported feeling high levels of stress 15 or more days per month.8
What can be done to treat Stress?
Medicines are helpful for many things, but usually not for stress.5 Any medication you take will only address symptoms of stress, not the source. Camouflaging symptoms with medication may deprive you of the signals you need, prompting you to reduce the strain on your physiological and psychological systems caused by stress.3 Managing stress through relaxation techniques and stress management is far better. Treatment focuses on identifying the sources of stress in your life and finding ways to avoid them or reduce their impact. Some components of treatment may include cognitive behavioral modification, assertiveness training, time management, and minimizing and replacing habits and traits causing your stress.7 Sessions may also include muscle relaxation, meditation, and deep breathing. Reducing feelings of helplessness and providing a sense of control over problems through therapy can help to lessen the amount of stress in your life.7 Being able to control stress is a learned behavior, stress can be effectively managed by taking small steps toward changing unhealthy behaviors.8 Stress management sessions can last 10-12 weeks or longer.
Factors that can help to prevent stress:7
- Proper diet
- Getting enough sleep
- Avoiding excess caffeine and other stimulants
- Taking time to relax
- Talking with friends and family
1 National Institute of Mental Health
2 MedlinePlus: Stress and Your Health
3 American Psychological Association: 6 Myths About Stress
4 American Heart Association: How Does Stress Affect You
5 American Heart Association: FAQs About Stress
6 MedlinePlus: Learn to Manage Stress
7 The American Institute of Stress
8 American Psychological Association: Stress Tip Sheet