While stress in small amounts can be helpful in motivating and energizing you, excessive stress (stress that impairs your ability to cope) is never a good thing. Ongoing high stress levels can cause physical and physiological illness, including depression, anxiety, decreased immune responses, and cardiovascular disease.
Stress manifests itself in many ways and can come from many different areas in your life, including finances, relationships, work, school, caregiver status, and more.
- Financial stress may be a result of unemployment, foreclosure, lost investments, or living beyond your means.
- Relationship stress can come from strained, insecure, and uncomfortable relationships between family members, friends and others.
- Work stress may be caused by difficult work tasks or hours, unfavorable working conditions, co-worker hostility, job insecurity, or a lack of opportunity for input. (Learn more here: http://www.jhsph.edu/healthymonday/2010/11082010_stress.html).
- School stress is generated in an academic environment with constant deadlines, multi-tasking, and intellectual demands.
- Caring for a family member or other person can be a source of great stress. Not only is it often hard to watch a family member deteriorate, but many caregivers also maintain other jobs outside of caregiving.
- Overwhelming stress may come from cluttered and/or dirty living conditions, crime-ridden neighborhoods, an overbooked schedule, or from too many responsibilities.
You can reduce stress in your life through eating healthy, well-balanced meals; learning to manage your time more effectively; getting plenty of sleep; making time for hobbies and interests; regularly exercising; reducing caffeine and sugar intake; maintaining a strong social support network; and saying no to requests that would create excessive stress in your life.
Even if you do encounter stress, there are plenty of ways to help curb its effects. Begin by learning and practicing relaxation and deep breathing techniques in activities such as meditation, yoga, or tai chi.If you find yourself unable to control your stress levels on your own, seek help from a doctor or other health professional.
For more information on coping with stress, visit http://familydoctor.org/online/famdocen/home/common/mentalhealth/stress/167.html or http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/tutorials/managingstress/htm/index.htm.Every Monday, the Johns Hopkins Healthy Monday Project, part of the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, offers tips for preventing disease and injury, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Check back each week for new tips or visit our archive.