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Stress and Your Health

Stress is your body's reaction to a challenge or demand. In short bursts, stress can be positive. It can help you meet a deadline, and can even boost your memory. But when stress lasts for a long time, it may harm your health.

Signs of too much stress

Your body reacts to stress by releasing hormones. These hormones make your brain more alert, cause your muscles to tense, and increase your heart rate. In the short term, these reactions are good: They can help you handle the situation that’s causing you stress. This is your body's way of protecting itself.

But when stress gets to be too much, your body often lets you know through the following warning signs:

  • Upset stomach
  • Headaches
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Irritability
  • Stiff jaw or neck
  • Weight loss or gain

Ways to relieve stress

Exercise - Find a type of exercise that works for you. Exercise is a healthy way to release stress, improve your mood and even boost energy.

Manage your time - Stress often kicks into high gear when we are coming up to an important deadline. So try making a list of everything you have to do. Prioritize your list and work on the most important tasks first.

Relax - Build in time during your day and week to truly relax. Everyone’s different, so find what works for you. It might be taking a yoga class or walking your dog.

Be aware - Know what causes you stress and work to prepare for those situations. You may want to rehearse a few extra times before that work presentation, or leave home a bit earlier to make a flight.

Be realistic - Sometimes you might have to say no. And that’s okay. You don’t always have to take on that extra project, accept another volunteer request or go out with friends. Each of us can do only so much.

Don’t self-medicate - Escaping stress through a drink or cigarette might seem like a good idea, but self-medicating will likely affect your mood and health and can even make you feel worse.

Reach out - If you’re stressed out, talk to your friends and family. If you feel like you can’t handle the stress on your own, schedule an appointment with a therapist or psychologist.

For some people, stress can be overwhelming. If it interferes with your daily life, you may have an anxiety disorder.

Read more about anxiety disorders

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