Stress may be affecting our health and we do not even realize it. Stress can affect our body, mood and behavior. Recognizing the symptoms of stress is important and gives us a head start on learning to manage them. Long term stress can contribute to health problems including high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and obesity.
Possible signs of stress on your body include frequent headaches, muscle tension, fatigue, stomach problems and insomnia or problems getting a good night’s sleep.
Stress can also effect your mood. Anxiety, irritability or anger are common symptoms. Other symptoms include lack of motivation, inability to focus, restlessness or sadness and depression.
Your behavior can also be effected by stress. Overeating or undereating is a common symptom. Tobacco use as well as drug or alcohol abuse may occur as well as withdrawing from friends or family. Unhealthy lifestyle changes can also occur such as exercising less often and excess snacking and eating unhealthy food.
You can take steps to manage your stress.
· Regular physical activity is very important.
· Relaxation techniques such as yoga, tai chi, meditation, deep breathing or getting a massage reduces stress.
· Spending quality time with family and friends also helps.
· Setting aside time for hobbies such as reading or listening to relaxing music reduces stress.
Watching television including local and national news programs, surfing the internet, texting, constantly checking social media or playing video games has been found to increase stress over time.
By taking step to manage your stress, you will find your sleep will improve which contributes to long term stress management. Eating a healthy diet, avoiding tobacco, excess caffeine and alcohol intake and avoiding the use of illicit substances are also important to managing long term stress.
If these techniques do not help and your symptoms continue, be sure to talk with your health care provider. There may be other potential causes for your symptoms. Seeing a professional counsellor can also help you identify your sources of stress and identify resources and tools for coping with stress.
Linda Vlastuin, RN, MS
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention