Stress is a Hazard to Your Health (and Happiness)

Stress is a Hazard to Your Health (and Happiness)

This time of year is like a mini new year for many of us (especially students and parents). Just because Summer is in its last half doesn't mean that you don't still have time to plan a break and to schedule in some stress relief. When you don't pay consistent attention to your stress level, you run the risk of having not only emotional trauma, but also physical trauma, such as type-2 diabetes and heart disease. Or, for the vain people like me - skin breakouts and dull skin and hair.

The Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine/TFD (2008) defines stress as our "total response to environmental demands or pressures. Further, stress is a result of interactions with your environment that you perceive as straining or exceeding [your] adaptive capacities and threatening [your] well-being. In other words, you get stressed out when you are dealing with people and situations that are beyond your ability to manage with ease.

Stress has a way of creeping up on us without us really noticing until a situation becomes too stressful to manage. Some stress symptoms to look out for are:

  • Stomach aches/digestive issues
  • Heart palpitations/chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Unexplained soreness or tension in your muscles
  • Chronic headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Changes in sex drive
  • Sleep issues
  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Overeating or undereating
  • Substance use/abuse
  • Social withdrawal

If you want even more, check out a list of the 50 most common signs of stress here.

Prevention and Management

Complete prevention of stress is impossible, and would be counterproductive. We need a certain level of stress in our lives to be able to grow and achieve. However, when you have too much stress, the following suggestions are helpful for management and prevention:

  • Use your vacation time and relax on a regular basis
  • Schedule unplugged personal time where you are able to enjoy your surroundings without technology and media
  • Get outside every day
  • Treat sleep as sacred by always making time for 7-8 hours of quality sleep
  • Do one thing every week for pure pleasure
  • Do one thing every day for relaxation
  • Practice 5-minute meditation where you stop everything and reset
  • Massage your ears to relieve tension and anxiety
  • Go for a walk
  • Call a friend and have actual interpersonal contact
  • Listen to music
  • Clean your desk/declutter your environment (DeCoster, 2013; Nikkola, 2013)

Take care of yourself!

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When we go, go, go all the time, we often don't think about what activities are adding to our life, or worse, subtracting from it. My Life Balance Activity List will help you identify all that you do and see if you are getting the best out of life.

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