3 Facts To Know About Stress

We've all experienced stress. Whether it's on the night before a big test or in traffic on the way to the airport, stress is a normal part of the human experience. But too much stress can be a serious problem.

Here are three things you should know about stress, including how to cope when you're feeling overwhelmed.

1. Stress Sometimes Serves a Needed Purpose

Stress isn't just some inconvenient feeling — it can help keep us alive and help us thrive.

Our stress response (aka our "fight or flight" response) kicks in when we face dangerous situations, such as a possible animal attack or car crash. When we experience stress, our nervous system releases hormones (such as adrenaline and cortisol) that help us physically step into action in an emergency.

Stress also allows us to meet challenges like answering tough questions at a job interview or tackling a needed task before a deadline.

2. Chronic Stress Can Harm Our Health

Both our physical and mental health can suffer if normal stressors become ongoing ones and if we're always feeling frazzled. Chronic stress can cause symptoms such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Chest pain
  • Depression
  • Digestive problems
  • Frequent colds
  • Heart disease
  • Loss of interest in sex
  • Problems sleeping
  • Weight-loss or gain

3. Stress Can Be Managed

If you find that you need to take a breather when you feel flustered, you might want to try calming activities, such as:

  • Taking some deep breaths
  • Going for a walk
  • Listening to relaxing music
  • Stroking a pet

Other ways to help manage stress:

  • Recognize what you can and can't control, and let go of the things that aren't in your control.
  • Take a hard look at your schedule, and learn to say no to the activities and commitments that trigger your stress.
  • Talk to trusted friends and family members about what's causing your stress.
  • Focus on eating healthy foods. A nutritious diet can actually help you cope better with stress.

Still struggling? If you are experiencing frequent stress symptoms, consider talking to your primary care practitioner or a mental health therapist.