Stress Management Effects on Health How Stress Impacts Your Health Guide How Stress Impacts Your Health Guide Overview Signs of Burnout Stress and Weight Gain Stress Reduction Tips Self-Care Practices Mindful Living What Is Stress? Your Body's Response to a Situation That Requires Attention or Action By Elizabeth Scott, PhD Elizabeth Scott, PhD Twitter Elizabeth Scott, PhD is an author, workshop leader, educator, and award-winning blogger on stress management, positive psychology, relationships, and emotional wellbeing. Learn about our editorial process Updated on November 07, 2022 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by David Susman, PhD Medically reviewed by David Susman, PhD David Susman, PhD is a licensed clinical psychologist with experience providing treatment to individuals with mental illness and substance use concerns. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Table of Contents View All Table of Contents Signs Identifying Causes Types Impact Treatments Coping Next in How Stress Impacts Your Health Guide How to Recognize Burnout Symptoms Stress can be defined as any type of change that causes physical, emotional, or psychological strain. Stress is your body's response to anything that requires attention or action. Everyone experiences stress to some degree. The way you respond to stress, however, makes a big difference to your overall well-being. Verywell / Brianna Gilmartin Sometimes, the best way to manage your stress involves changing your situation. At other times, the best strategy involves changing the way you respond to the situation. Developing a clear understanding of how stress impacts your physical and mental health is important. It's also important to recognize how your mental and physical health affects your stress level. 2:04 Watch Now: 5 Ways Stress Can Cause Weight Gain Signs of Stress Stress can be short-term or long-term. Both can lead to a variety of symptoms, but chronic stress can take a serious toll on the body over time and have long-lasting health effects. Some common signs of stress include: Changes in mood Clammy or sweaty palms Decreased sex drive Diarrhea Difficulty sleeping Digestive problems Dizziness Feeling anxious Frequent sickness Grinding teeth Headaches Low energy Muscle tension, especially in the neck and shoulders Physical aches and pains Racing heartbeat Trembling Common Symptoms of Too Much Stress Identifying Stress What does stress feel like? What does stress feel like? It often contributes to irritability, fear, overwork, and frustration. You may feel physically exhausted, worn out, and unable to cope. Stress is not always easy to recognize, but there are some ways to identify some signs that you might be experiencing too much pressure. Sometimes stress can come from an obvious source, but sometimes even small daily stresses from work, school, family, and friends can take a toll on your mind and body. If you think stress might be affecting you, there are a few things you can watch for: Psychological signs such as difficulty concentrating, worrying, anxiety, and trouble rememberingEmotional signs such as being angry, irritated, moody, or frustratedPhysical signs such as high blood pressure, changes in weight, frequent colds or infections, and changes in the menstrual cycle and libidoBehavioral signs such as poor self-care, not having time for the things you enjoy, or relying on drugs and alcohol to cope Stress vs. Anxiety Stress can sometimes be mistaken for anxiety, and experiencing a great deal of stress can contribute to feelings of anxiety. Experiencing anxiety can make it more difficult to cope with stress and may contribute to other health issues, including increased depression, susceptibility to illness, and digestive problems. Stress and anxiety contribute to nervousness, poor sleep, high blood pressure, muscle tension, and excess worry. In most cases, stress is caused by external events, while anxiety is caused by your internal reaction to stress. Stress may go away once the threat or the situation resolves, whereas anxiety may persist even after the original stressor is gone. Work-Life Balance Featuring Chrissy Metz: A Verywell Mind Digital Issue Causes of Stress There are many different things in life that can cause stress. Some of the main sources of stress include work, finances, relationships, parenting, and day-to-day inconveniences. Stress can trigger the body’s response to a perceived threat or danger, known as the fight-or-flight response. During this reaction, certain hormones like adrenaline and cortisol are released. This speeds the heart rate, slows digestion, shunts blood flow to major muscle groups, and changes various other autonomic nervous functions, giving the body a burst of energy and strength. Originally named for its ability to enable us to physically fight or run away when faced with danger, the fight-or-flight response is now activated in situations where neither response is appropriate—like in traffic or during a stressful day at work. When the perceived threat is gone, systems are designed to return to normal function via the relaxation response. But in cases of chronic stress, the relaxation response doesn't occur often enough, and being in a near-constant state of fight-or-flight can cause damage to the body. Stress can also lead to some unhealthy habits that have a negative impact on your health. For example, many people cope with stress by eating too much or by smoking. These unhealthy habits damage the body and create bigger problems in the long-term. Mental Health in the Workplace Webinar On May 19, 2022, Verywell Mind hosted a virtual Mental Health in the Workplace webinar, hosted by Editor-in-Chief Amy Morin, LCSW. If you missed it, check out this recap to learn ways to foster supportive work environments and helpful strategies to improve your well-being on the job. The Main Causes of Stress Types of Stress Not all types of stress are harmful or even negative. Some of the different types of stress that you might experience include: Acute stress: Acute stress is a very short-term type of stress that can either be positive or more distressing; this is the type of stress we most often encounter in day-to-day life. Chronic stress: Chronic stress is stress that seems never-ending and inescapable, like the stress of a bad marriage or an extremely taxing job; chronic stress can also stem from traumatic experiences and childhood trauma. Episodic acute stress: Episodic acute stress is acute stress that seems to run rampant and be a way of life, creating a life of ongoing distress. Eustress: Eustress is fun and exciting. It's known as a positive type of stress that can keep you energized. It's associated with surges of adrenaline, such as when you are skiing or racing to meet a deadline. 4 Main Types of Stress: The main harmful types of stress are acute stress, chronic stress, and episodic acute stress. Acute stress is usually brief, chronic stress is prolonged, and episodic acute stress is short-term but frequent. Positive stress, known as eustress, can be fun and exciting, but it can also take a toll. What Is Acute Stress Disorder? Impact of Stress Stress can have several effects on your health and well-being. It can make it more challenging to deal with life's daily hassles, affect your interpersonal relationships, and have detrimental effects on your health. The connection between your mind and body is apparent when you examine stress's impact on your life. Feeling stressed over a relationship, money, or living situation can create physical health issues. The inverse is also true. Health problems, whether you're dealing with high blood pressure or diabetes, will also affect your stress level and mental health. When your brain experiences high degrees of stress, your body reacts accordingly. Serious acute stress, like being involved in a natural disaster or getting into a verbal altercation, can trigger heart attacks, arrhythmias, and even sudden death. However, this happens mostly in individuals who already have heart disease. Stress also takes an emotional toll. While some stress may produce feelings of mild anxiety or frustration, prolonged stress can also lead to burnout, anxiety disorders, and depression. Chronic stress can have a serious impact on your health as well. If you experience chronic stress, your autonomic nervous system will be overactive, which is likely to damage your body. Stress-Influenced Conditions DiabetesHair lossHeart diseaseHyperthyroidismObesitySexual dysfunctionTooth and gum diseaseUlcers The Effects of Stress Treatments for Stress Stress is not a distinct medical diagnosis and there is no single, specific treatment for it. Treatment for stress focuses on changing the situation, developing stress coping skills, implementing relaxation techniques, and treating symptoms or conditions that may have been caused by chronic stress. Some interventions that may be helpful include therapy, medication, and complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). Press Play for Advice On Managing Stress Hosted by Editor-in-Chief and therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast featuring professor Elissa Epel, shares ways to manage stress. Click below to listen now. Follow Now: Apple Podcasts / Spotify / Google Podcasts / Amazon Music Psychotherapy Some forms of therapy that may be particularly helpful in addressing symptoms of stress including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR). CBT focuses on helping people identify and change negative thinking patterns, while MBSR utilizes meditation and mindfulness to help reduce stress levels. Medication Medication may sometimes be prescribed to address some specific symptoms that are related to stress. Such medications may include sleep aids, antacids, antidepressants, and anti-anxiety medications. Complementary and Alternative Medicine Some complementary approaches that may also be helpful for reducing stress include acupuncture, aromatherapy, massage, yoga, and meditation. Coping With Stress Although stress is inevitable, it can be manageable. When you understand the toll it takes on you and the steps to combat stress, you can take charge of your health and reduce the impact stress has on your life. Learn to recognize the signs of burnout. High levels of stress may place you at a high risk of burnout. Burnout can leave you feeling exhausted and apathetic about your job. When you start to feel symptoms of emotional exhaustion, it's a sign that you need to find a way to get a handle on your stress. Try to get regular exercise. Physical activity has a big impact on your brain and your body. Whether you enjoy Tai Chi or you want to begin jogging, exercise reduces stress and improves many symptoms associated with mental illness. Take care of yourself. Incorporating regular self-care activities into your daily life is essential to stress management. Learn how to take care of your mind, body, and spirit and discover how to equip yourself to live your best life. Practice mindfulness in your life. Mindfulness isn't just something you practice for 10 minutes each day. It can also be a way of life. Discover how to live more mindfully throughout your day so you can become more awake and conscious throughout your life. If you or a loved one are struggling with stress, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area. For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database. When and How to Take a Mental Health Day 10 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Cleveland Clinic. Stress. National institute of Mental Health. I'm so stressed out! Fact sheet. Goldstein DS. Adrenal responses to stress. Cell Mol Neurobiol. 2010;30(8):1433–1440. doi:10.1007/s10571-010-9606-9 Stahl JE, Dossett ML, LaJoie AS, et al. Relaxation response and resiliency training and its effect on healthcare resource utilization [published correction appears in PLoS One. 2017 Feb 21;12 (2):e0172874]. PLoS One. 2015;10(10):e0140212. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0140212 American Heart Association. Stress and Heart Health. Chi JS, Kloner RA. Stress and myocardial infarction. Heart. 2003;89(5):475–476. doi:10.1136/heart.89.5.475 Salvagioni DAJ, Melanda FN, Mesas AE, González AD, Gabani FL, Andrade SM. Physical, psychological and occupational consequences of job burnout: A systematic review of prospective studies. PLoS One. 2017;12(10):e0185781. Published 2017 Oct 4. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0185781 Bitonte RA, DeSanto DJ 2nd. Mandatory physical exercise for the prevention of mental illness in medical students. Ment Illn. 2014;6(2):5549. doi:10.4081/mi.2014.5549 Ayala EE, Winseman JS, Johnsen RD, Mason HRC. U.S. medical students who engage in self-care report less stress and higher quality of life. BMC Med Educ. 2018;18(1):189. doi:10.1186/s12909-018-1296-x Richards KC, Campenni CE, Muse-Burke JL. Self-care and well-being in mental health professionals: The mediating effects of self-awareness and mindfulness. J Ment Health Couns. 2010;32(3):247. doi:10.17744/mehc.32.3.0n31v88304423806. Additional Reading American Psychological Association. 2015 Stress in America. Krantz DS, Whittaker KS, Sheps DS. Psychosocial risk factors for coronary heart disease: Pathophysiologic mechanisms. In R. Allan & J. Fisher, Heart and mind: The practice of cardiac psychology. American Psychological Association; 2011:91-113. doi:10.1037/13086-004 By Elizabeth Scott, PhD Elizabeth Scott, PhD is an author, workshop leader, educator, and award-winning blogger on stress management, positive psychology, relationships, and emotional wellbeing. 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