How to deal with stress?

What is Stress?

Stress is the body’s reaction to any change that requires an adjustment or response. The body reacts to these changes with physical, mental, and emotional responses. Stress is a normal part of life. You can experience stress from your environment, your body, and your thoughts. Even positive life changes such as a promotion, marriage, new home, or retirement can cause stress.

Stress affects people in different ways. What may be stressful to one person may not faze someone else. Too much stress can have negative impacts on your health, well-being, relationships, and quality of life. Learning healthy ways to manage and cope with stress can help reduce its negative impacts.

What Causes Stress?

There are many potential causes and sources of stress, including:

Work Related Stressors

– Heavy workload
– Intense pressure to perform
– Problematic coworkers
– Long hours
– Job insecurity
– Lack of work-life balance

Financial Stressors

– Debt
– Lack of savings
– Cost of living exceeding income
– Unexpected expenses
– Retirement concerns

Health Related Stressors

– Managing chronic health conditions
– Diagnosis of a serious illness
– Pain and physical limitations
– Poor sleep
– Unhealthy lifestyle habits

Family and Relationship Stressors

– Conflict with partner or family members
– Divorce or breakup
– Raising children
– Caring for aging parents
– Unresolved grief over loss of loved one

Trauma and Loss Related Stressors

– History of abuse, violence or trauma
– Death of a close friend or family member
– Major setbacks like unemployment or accidents

Internal Stressors

– Negative self-talk and pessimism
– Unrealistic expectations and perfectionism
– Lack of self-confidence and self-esteem
– All or nothing thinking

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Stress?

Recognizing the signs and symptoms of stress is important so that you can take action to manage them. Physical, emotional and behavioral symptoms can manifest when you are stressed over a prolonged period of time.

Physical Symptoms

  • Headaches
  • Muscle tension
  • Chest pain and rapid heartbeat
  • Fatigue
  • Change in sex drive
  • Nausea, dizziness
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Skin breakouts

Emotional Symptoms

  • Moodiness, irritability, anxiety
  • Sadness, depression, overwhelmed
  • Agitation, inability to relax
  • Feeling lonely and isolated
  • Lack of motivation or focus
  • Feeling constantly overwhelmed

Behavioral Symptoms

  • Withdrawing from responsibilities
  • Procrastinating, avoidance
  • Excessive alcohol, drug or food use
  • Tobacco use
  • Social withdrawal and isolation
  • Outbursts of anger and aggression

If you notice yourself experiencing any combination of physical, emotional or behavioral symptoms for more than two weeks, you may want to evaluate strategies to manage stress.

What are the Health Risks of Chronic Stress?

While mild levels of stress can be healthy and aid productivity, chronic stress can negatively impact nearly every system in your body. Stress contributes to multiple physical and mental health conditions, including:

  • Heart disease: Chronic stress may raise blood pressure and cholesterol levels, increasing heart disease risk.
  • Obesity: Cortisol released in response to stress can increase appetite and drive fat storage in the abdominal region.
  • Diabetes: Stress alters blood sugar levels and may contribute to diabetes risk and complications.
  • Depression and anxiety: Prolonged stress impacts brain chemistry and hormones, leading to mood instability.
  • Accelerated aging: Cortisol accelerates cellular aging processes in organs like the heart and brain.
  • Digestive problems: Stress exacerbates IBS, ulcers, constipation, diarrhea and acid reflux symptoms.
  • Weakened immunity: Chronically stressed individuals are more prone to frequent illnesses and infections.
  • Headaches: Stress triggers tension headaches and migraines in susceptible individuals.

Learning to manage stress effectively reduces these associated health risks.

What are Common Situations that Cause Stress?

Stress can be triggered by major life events and daily hassles alike. Some common situations linked with high stress include:

1. Workplace Stress

Heavy workloads, intense pressure, difficult coworkers and unclear job expectations can all create a stressful work environment. This occupational stress often spills over into people’s personal life.

2. Relationship Conflicts

Relationship problems and conflicts with a spouse, partner, family members or friends are a very common source of stress. These close interpersonal relationships play a huge role in health and happiness.

3. Major Life Changes

Even when they are ultimately positive events, major life changes like a new job, moving, marriage, pregnancy or retirement disrupt daily routines. This can cause stress to skyrocket during the transition period.

4. Financial Problems

Money troubles in the form of overwhelming debt, under-employment, job loss or the rising cost of living create persistent stress about making ends meet. Financial strains affect people across income levels.

5. Parenting Struggles

The demands of parenting, especially for dual income and single parents, creates physical and emotional stress. These stresses grow as children progress through challenging developmental stages.

6. Health Problems

Chronic or terminal health conditions understandably create worry and require significant lifestyle adaptations. Even smaller health issues like diet struggles or poor sleep quality tax people’s bodies.

7. Loss and Grief

The death of a loved one, job loss and relationship breakups are examples of intensely painful losses. The grieving process brings profound stress that takes time to overcome.

8. Negative Thought Patterns

Habitual negative thinking driven by pessimism, unrealistic expectations and perfectionism creates stress even in positive situations. Learning thought awareness helps greatly.

What are Effective Ways to Cope with Stress?

When you feel stressed, it is easy to fall into unhealthy coping strategies like excess drinking, lashing out at loved ones or avoidance. However, positive coping skills can be learned to productively manage stressful situations:

1. Improve Time Management Skills

Take control of your schedule by setting priorities, scheduling tasks, delegating when possible and saying no to additional responsibilities when you’re feeling overloaded.

2. Maintain Social Support System

Make time for close family and friends even when you’re busy. Prioritize relationships that provide emotional support and affection in your life.

3. Adopt Healthy Lifestyle Habits

Eat nutrient dense whole foods, exercise regularly, get enough sleep and take time for relaxing hobbies like yoga, music or reading.

4. Practice Relaxation Techniques

Try meditation, deep breathing exercises, massage and mindfulness techniques to activate the body’s relaxation response and quiet your mind.

5. Reframe Negative Thoughts

Notice recurrent negative thoughts and purposefully reframe them in a more positive, realistic perspective to alleviate stress.

6. Talk to a Friend or Professional

Verbalizing feelings and problems with a trusted confidant can help gain helpful feedback and temporary emotional relief.

7. Take Breaks and Short Vacations

Take regular breaks during work, schedule periodic staycations and use all your paid time off to unwind and have fun.

8. Set Realistic Expectations

Perfectionism and unrealistic standards for yourself or others will inevitably lead to shortfalls and chronic disappointment.

9. Maintain Sense of Humor

Laughter boosts immune function, eases anxiety and promotes bonding. Surround yourself with people and media that make you smile.

10. Develop Coping Road Map

Identify your stress triggers and have an action plan ready with healthy coping strategies that work for you when stress hits.

How Can Exercise Help Relieve Stress?

Exercise is one of the most effective tools for both short and long term stress management. Here’s how staying physically active combats stress:

  • Releases endorphins which boost mood and relieve depression
  • Reduces levels of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline
  • Lowers blood pressure and improves heart health
  • Burns away extra adrenaline to calm the body and mind
  • Promotes better sleep to recover from daily exhaustion
  • Can be meditative to distract from intrusive thoughts
  • Fosters social connections which counter isolation
  • Boosts self-confidence and sense of control over your body

Aim for 30 to 60 minutes per day of moderate exercise like brisk walking, swimming, cycling or jogging. Even short 10 minute activity breaks help disrupt stressful thoughts.

What Foods Help Fight Stress?

Diet choices directly impact mood, inflammation, gut health and energy levels. Some foods to emphasize and avoid managing stress include:

Foods That Reduce Stress

  • Fatty fish like salmon provide omega-3 fats to improve mood.
  • Dark chocolate elevates feel good neurochemicals like serotonin.
  • Probiotic foods like yogurt ease anxiety and boost immunity.
  • Leafy greens like spinach contain folate to support brain health.
  • Nuts and seeds offer crunchy texture to relieve stress snacking urges.
  • Avocados contain B vitamins that aid the nervous system.
  • Whole grains stabilize blood sugar levels after meals.

Foods That Increase Stress

  • Sugary treats cause blood sugar spikes and crashes.
  • Caffeine triggers fight-or-flight physiological stress reactions.
  • Alcohol suppresses the nervous system temporarily but increases anxiety after use.
  • Refined carbs like white bread are digested quickly, leading to energy crashes.
  • Artificial sweeteners impair gut health and mood regulation.
  • Inflammatory foods like red meat tax the body’s immune response.

Making balanced diet changes helps create inner calm and lasting energy.

When Should You Seek Professional Help for Stress?

Mild manageable stress is a normal part of everyday life. However, if unhealthy chronic stress persists for weeks and self-help efforts aren’t working, it may be time to seek professional guidance.

Consider therapy, counseling or psychiatric help if stress is:

  • Causing persistent physical symptoms like headaches, muscle pain or digestive issues.
  • Impacting your ability to handle responsibilities at work, home or school.
  • Straining relationships with your partner, family members or friends.
  • Leading to emotional numbness, mood swings or isolation from others.
  • Contributing to depression, prolonged grief or thoughts of harming yourself.
  • Causing unhealthy coping behaviors like drug or alcohol abuse.
  • Leading to panic attacks, nightmares or flashbacks from trauma.

Left unaddressed, chronic stress can spiral into more severe mental health conditions. Early intervention improves your ability to get back on track.

When to Consider Medication for Anxiety and Stress?

Medications like antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs may be helpful for short term use in people with severe stress. These scenarios may warrant medication:

  • Debilitating symptoms that impede normal functioning
  • Suicidal thoughts or self-harming behaviors
  • Severe panic attacks or phobias
  • High generalized anxiety unresponsive to other interventions
  • Symptoms stemming from traumatic events and PTSD
  • Inability to participate consistently in therapy and counseling
  • Other diagnosed mental health conditions like depression and OCD

Medications can help stabilize mood and anxiety while you work to address the root causes through counseling strategies. Medication is not a standalone solution and side effects should be closely monitored.

What Relaxation Techniques Help Relieve Stress Quickly?

Relaxation techniques send signals to your body to begin unwinding as soon as you start using them. Here are some of the fastest working stress relief techniques:

Deep Breathing Exercises

Taking slow deep breaths signals your nervous system to calm down. Try box breathing: inhale for 5 counts, hold for 5 counts, exhale for 5 counts, hold again for 5 counts. Repeat 5 times.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Systematically tensing and relaxing each muscle group reduces muscle tension caused by stress. Start with toes and work up to neck and face.

Mindfulness Meditation

Observe passing thoughts and physical sensations without judgement. This lets go of negative thought patterns fueling stress.


Picture a peaceful scene like walking in nature or floating in water. Engage all your senses to escape and refocus your mind.

Spiritual Practices

Prayer, yoga, tai chi movements, repeating a mantra and other rituals comfort the mind and boost mood.

Listening to Relaxing Music

Soothing slow tempo instrumental music lowers heart rate and blood pressure almost as well as meditation.

Regular practice of these mini stress relief breaks rewires your brain’s responses for lasting calm.

What are the Best Supplements for Stress and Anxiety?

Stress depletes many vital nutrients in the body. Targeted supplementation can correct deficiencies contributing to anxiety. Top supplements for stress include:

1. Magnesium

Magnesium regulates hundreds of bodily processes including muscle relaxation, nerve transmission and blood pressure. Stress rapidly depletes magnesium. Supplements like magnesium glycinate or citrate can restore healthy levels.

2. Omega 3 Fatty Acids

These healthy fats found in fish oil support brain health. Omega 3s reduce inflammation and cortisol levels elevated by stress.

3. Adaptogenic Herbs

Adaptogens like ashwagandha, ginseng, and rhodiola help the body adapt to stress by regulating hormones and energy levels.

4. Vitamin B Complex

B vitamins like B5, B6, B9 and B12 support nervous system functioning. Deficiencies in these B vitamins are linked with anxiety and depression.

5. Vitamin D

Known as the sunshine vitamin, Vitamin D influences serotonin activity and other mood regulating processes in the brain. Stress depletes Vitamin D stores.

6. Glycine

Glycine is an amino acid and neurotransmitter that promotes calm and sleep. Supplements have been shown to reduce work related anxiety.

Pair targeted supplements with a healthy lifestyle and therapy for optimal stress relief.


We all encounter stress – it’s an inevitable part of life. How you respond to stressors makes all the difference for your mental and physical health. Prioritizing exercise, healthy eating, restorative activities and social connection establishes resilience and balance to cope with challenges. Don’t hesitate to confide in trusted friends or professionals when you feel overwhelmed. Maintaining perspective and adapting your lifestyle empowers you to take control of stress before it controls you.

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