Topic of the Month

April Observance: Stress Awareness Month

What is stress?

Stress is how the brain and body respond to any demand. Every type of demand or stressor, like exercise, work, school, major life changes, traumatic events – and even happy events – can be stressful. You should pay attention to how you deal with minor and major stress events so that you know when to seek help.

Stress can be good for you, too. It can motivate you to prepare or perform – for example, when you need to take a test or interview for a job. Stress can even be life-saving in some situations. When your body senses danger, it prepares to face a threat or flee to safety. Your pulse quickens, you breathe faster, your muscles tense, and your brain uses more oxygen and increases activity.

How does stress affect your health?

People experience stress in different ways. As a result, stress affects people differently. Of course, everyone has bad days, but if you feel stress a lot or over a long period of time, it can cause physical and emotional health problems:

  • Memory problems, poor judgement, indecision, self-doubt, and inability to concentrate.
  • Depression, moodiness, irritability, panic, anxiety, cynicism, feeling overwhelmed, and frustration.
  • Chest pain, fast heartbeat, aches and pains, frequent colds, skin problems, indigestion, and high blood pressure.
  • Loss of sense of humor; feeling unmotivated; sleeping too little or too much; isolating yourself from others; and increase of alcohol, cigarettes, and/or caffeine.

Mobile apps

Tips from our docs

This month, our healthy tip is brought to you by Pedro Cardona, MD, our Medical Director.

Reducing your stress levels can not only make you feel better right now; it also may protect your health long-term. Here some ways you can lower your stress:

  • Identify what’s causing stress. Keep track of your state of mind throughout the day. Once you know what’s bothering you, work out a plan for addressing it. That might mean setting more reasonable expectations for yourself and others or asking for help with household responsibilities, job assignments, or other tasks.
  • Build strong relationships. Relationships can be a source of stress. But they can also be stress buffers. Reach out to family members or close friends and let them know you’re having a tough time.
  • Exercise regularly. Walking or other physical activity can help you work off stress. Plus, exercise increases the production of endorphins, your body’s natural mood-booster. Commit to a daily walk or other form of exercise.
  • Talk to your doctor or health care provider. You should seek help from a health care provider right away if you have suicidal thoughts, are overwhelmed, feel you cannot cope, or are using drugs or alcohol to cope.

Find more information, tests, and resources on our Behavioral Health page.

More resources