Stress is common, and sometimes it can even be good. That nervousness you feel before a make-or-break event is a kind of stress that can help you prepare to perform your best. But it’s important to notice when stress becomes repetitive or ongoing. Learning how to recognize stress can help you manage it.
Stress in America
In the American Psychological Association’s (APA) “Stress in AmericaTM 2019” survey, American adults, on average, described a healthy stress level as 3.8 on a scale of one to 10 — one meant little to no stress and 10 indicated “a great deal of stress.” The average American also reported a stress level of 4.9 during the previous month. In addition to feeling like their stress was at unhealthy levels, 59% of the participants said they needed more emotional support than they received in the prior year.
Experiencing stress for prolonged periods of time can affect overall health and the immune, digestive, cardiovascular, and reproductive systems. Chronic stress can impact both physical and mental health. More specifically, it can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes as well as depression and anxiety.
Controlling stress begins with learning the signs, which can be different for each person. Some may feel depressed and have low energy while others are angry and irritable. There may be physical signs of stress including headache or an upset stomach or behavioral manifestations such as sleeping too little or too much, overeating or undereating, or increased use of alcohol, tobacco, and/or other substances.
If you notice any of these signs, you may consider trying to reduce stress in your life. Here are some steps you can take:
- Keep moving. In addition to benefiting your physical health, exercise can help improve your mood. This could include walking, running, and any other forms of physical activity that increases your heart rate.
- Set priorities. Does everything have to get done right away? Are there some things you don’t need to do at all? Consider the possibility that you can say no.
- Learn how to relax. This includes your mind and body. Set aside time to practice techniques such as meditation, breathing exercises, and/or mindfulness.
- Connect with others. Share your feelings with people who can provide emotional and/or practical support.
- Accept what you can’t change. If you can’t avoid or improve stressful situations, acknowledge and cope with the challenges to minimize the stress.
- Do things you enjoy. Make time every day for at least one activity that takes your mind off any current stressors and lifts your spirits.
Talk with a licensed therapist
Whether the stressors in your life are short-term or ongoing, therapists can provide emotional support, perspective, and stress management tips. Amwell therapists can ask questions to help identify the causes of your stress and work with you to find ways to manage it — from the comfort of home. Online therapy is a convenient and dependable way to find the support you may be looking for.
Learn more about stress management.