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woman dealing with stress

How Stress Affects Your Health

woman dealing with stress

When most of us think of stress, we imagine feeling irritable, developing a headache, or getting emotional. And while these are common symptoms related to stress, they are by no means the only ones.

According to psychologists, stress can affect every part of the body, from the muscles to the cardiovascular and respiratory systems to the gastrointestinal and reproductive systems. Just imagine it flowing through the body, impacting everything it passes along the way. This is how detrimental stress can be.

And it makes sense, really. When we're stressed, our muscles tighten up, affecting the musculoskeletal system. We tend to breathe more rapidly, affecting the respiratory system. Heart rates rise in stressful situations, affecting the cardiovascular system. Over time, these stresses can negatively impact everything we do, from the moment we get out of bed in the morning to the moment we lie back in it at night.

Managing stress

Dealing with stress and anxiety—whether caused by internal or external factors —is essential for well-being. So how do we manage it, particularly in times like these when we may not be able to control the actual stressors?

Here are 5 helpful strategies:

  • Reduce screen time. Between the blue light emitting from our devices—and the sleep-related negative effects that come with it—and the neverending news cycle, it pays to step away from the screen. There are lots of free screen-management apps like these that can help.
  • Eat better, and move more. Study after study showing how a proper diet can affect our entire bodies, from our physical health to our mood. When we're stressed, we tend to head for the junk food—an obviously temporary fix. A healthier approach, like a long walk and some heart- and brain-healthy fruit and nuts, can better tackle stress.
  • Meditate. Mindfulness can help take us out of a stressful situation by triggering the body's relaxation response. Yoga offers similar benefits.
  • Fight for fun. When we're stressed, it can feel impossible to do fun things. But popping in a funny movie, going for a bike ride, or reading a favorite book can help combat stressors.
  • Try therapy. There's a stigma surrounding mental health that therapy is only for those with an identified mental illness. The truth is, everyone can benefit from it. A mental-health professional can help identify internal and external stressors and offer viable, attainable coping strategies. And the recent rise in teletherapy makes it even easier to do. 

We can't always control the stressors in our lives; current events remind us of this fact every day. What we can do, though, is proactively work to combat it. Our well-being depends on it!


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