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Stress is all around us. From jobs and relationships to unexpected trauma, stress can quickly creep into each area of our lives. Not all stress is bad; it is our brain’s normal response to change. When stress works properly, it enhances our focus and helps us to rise to meet challenges. But over time, if not properly managed, stress can take a toll on our health and mood. To avoid these outcomes, it is important to learn your limits and how to properly manage this normal part of living.

There are different kinds of stress and each kind can affect us in different ways. Routine stress is what you experience at work or home on a daily basis. This kind of stress can bring about physical symptoms that are not always easy to notice because of their gradual onset. Upset stomachs, headaches, and a depressed mood are common. As days and weeks of chronic stress continue, these symptoms can worsen and lead to depression, anxiety disorders and other illnesses. Additionally, if you already suffer from depression or other mood disorders, chronic stress can exacerbate these conditions.

Each person can tolerate different amounts of stress. Some people thrive in high-stress environments while others struggle. Your ability to handle stressful situations is dependent on many factors including genetics, the quality of your support system and your outlook on life.

There are ways to increase your stress tolerance and guard yourself against the potential negative effects on your mental health. When possible, take charge of a stressful situation and make the necessary changes to calm your environment. In situations that you cannot change, work on adjusting your response in a healthy way. And during all other times, be sure to make time for yourself to rest, relax, or exercise.

Are your stress levels a problem? Assess yourself for some of the following physical, cognitive, and emotional symptoms:

  • memory problems
  • poor judgement
  • nausea/digestive trouble
  • aches and pains
  • moodiness
  • sleeping problems
  • irritability
  • nervous habits
  • abusing alcohol or drugs to relax

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, it is important to visit your doctor for a full assessment. Don’t be afraid to seek professional help! A mental health screening can also indicate if what you are feeling is a normal response to stress or something more serious. The screening can provide you with feedback to present to your doctor as well as information on local treatment options.

Anonymous mental health screenings are available through Screening for Mental Health at www.HelpYourselfHelpOthers.org.

 

References
Fact Sheet on Stress. (n.d.). Retrieved May 4, 2015, from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/stress/index.shtml

Photo Credit: Katie Hickey