Stress and Your Life

Reviewed Jul 18, 2017

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Summary

  • We feel stressed when demands on our time and energy outweigh our resources and skills for coping.
  • Too much stress shows up through our health, feelings and actions, and affects all areas life.

Stress is part of life for all people. Some people carry heavy burdens—either by chance or by choice. Some people cope with routine pressures and unexpected challenges better than others. All these things contribute to the daily stress you feel.

Stress becomes a problem when it takes a toll on your health or well-being.

Why do I feel so stressed?

We feel stressed when demands on our time and energy outweigh our resources and skills for coping. This extra “weight on our shoulders” shows up through our health, feelings and actions. For instance, you may notice that you get sick easily when you are stressed out. You may worry a lot or have no energy. Or, you may be cranky and snap at your kids or partner for no reason.

Our stress level goes up and down over the course of our lifetime, and we can’t always predict stressful moments. Some situations and stages of life tend to be more stressful than others, such as:

  • Planning a wedding
  • Having a baby
  • Raising children
  • Getting divorced
  • Losing or changing jobs
  • Moving
  • Caregiving for an aging parent
  • Dealing with a serious or long-term illness
  • Death of a loved one

How can stress create problems in my life?

In the short-term, stress can help us to perform our best or overcome a challenge. But stress that builds up or lasts a long time can create problems at work or school, at home and with relationships.

The following stories describe real ways that stress can take a toll in your life. See if you identify how stress affects Jim and Nancy’s routines, feelings, choices and outlook.

Jim wakes up to the sound of his alarm every morning. He seldom feels refreshed because he often gets up in the middle of the night and has trouble falling back asleep. He skips breakfast so he can get a head start on his commute. Stuck in traffic for nearly an hour, Jim dwells on the many projects waiting for him at work. He tries to think about how he will tackle each task, but just feels overwhelmed. Once at work, Jim can feel his blood pressure rise as he enters the building. He feels unmotivated and unsupported. By evening, Jim is tired and cranky. He wants to engage with his family. But instead, he pours a drink and tunes out his wife and kids.

Nancy’s mother, Jan, moved in with her family about a year ago after Jan had surgery. The plan was to help Jan through the first part of her recovery until she could live on her own again. But Jan since has had new health problems come up. She also resists moving out. Nancy spends most of her day caring for Jan or taking her to and from various appointments. She has had to give up most of her own interests and has no time for herself. Nancy also had to cancel an anniversary trip with her husband. Nancy loves her mom, but she resents her situation. This makes her feel guilty. She turns to “comfort” food when feeling down, and she has recently put on weight. She feels trapped.

Jim and Nancy’s stories make it easy to see how stress can spill over into all areas of life. Stressful situations that go on and on can destroy health, relationships and lives.

What can I do if I feel trapped by my stress?

To reduce your stress level and reclaim your life, you have two choices:

  1. Change your situation, if you can. Set limits. Plan ahead. Prioritize. Get help.
  2. Find ways to manage stress. Try relaxation techniques. Learn meditation skills. Learn deep breathing techniques. Start an aerobic exercise routine. Vent to friends or loved ones.

If you cannot cope with stress or if stress is creating problems in your life, call your doctor or a mental health provider. They can help you identify stressors you can control and come up with strategies to tackle stressors you cannot avoid. Consider cognitive-behavioral therapy to identify your automatic negative thoughts, feelings, and the behaviors so that you can strategically generate more positive attitudes and outcomes.

Resources

American Psychological Association
(800) 374-2721 or (202) 336-5500
www.apa.org

National Institute of Mental Health
(866) 615-6464 or (301) 443-4513
www.nimh.nih.gov

Mental Health America
(800) 969-6642 or (703) 684-7722
www.mentalhealthamerica.net

American Institute of Stress
(914) 963-1200
www.stress.org

Stress Management: Approaches for Preventing & Reducing Stress. Harvard Health Publications, 2011.

By Christine Martin
Source: American Psychological Association; National Institute of Mental Health; Stress Management: Approaches for Preventing & Reducing Stress. Harvard Health Publications, 2011. Shellenbarger, Sue. (2012) "When stress is good for you." Wall Street Journal. D1.
Reviewed by Lily Awad, MD, Associate Medical Director, Massachusetts Behavioral Health Partnership

Summary

  • We feel stressed when demands on our time and energy outweigh our resources and skills for coping.
  • Too much stress shows up through our health, feelings and actions, and affects all areas life.

Stress is part of life for all people. Some people carry heavy burdens—either by chance or by choice. Some people cope with routine pressures and unexpected challenges better than others. All these things contribute to the daily stress you feel.

Stress becomes a problem when it takes a toll on your health or well-being.

Why do I feel so stressed?

We feel stressed when demands on our time and energy outweigh our resources and skills for coping. This extra “weight on our shoulders” shows up through our health, feelings and actions. For instance, you may notice that you get sick easily when you are stressed out. You may worry a lot or have no energy. Or, you may be cranky and snap at your kids or partner for no reason.

Our stress level goes up and down over the course of our lifetime, and we can’t always predict stressful moments. Some situations and stages of life tend to be more stressful than others, such as:

  • Planning a wedding
  • Having a baby
  • Raising children
  • Getting divorced
  • Losing or changing jobs
  • Moving
  • Caregiving for an aging parent
  • Dealing with a serious or long-term illness
  • Death of a loved one

How can stress create problems in my life?

In the short-term, stress can help us to perform our best or overcome a challenge. But stress that builds up or lasts a long time can create problems at work or school, at home and with relationships.

The following stories describe real ways that stress can take a toll in your life. See if you identify how stress affects Jim and Nancy’s routines, feelings, choices and outlook.

Jim wakes up to the sound of his alarm every morning. He seldom feels refreshed because he often gets up in the middle of the night and has trouble falling back asleep. He skips breakfast so he can get a head start on his commute. Stuck in traffic for nearly an hour, Jim dwells on the many projects waiting for him at work. He tries to think about how he will tackle each task, but just feels overwhelmed. Once at work, Jim can feel his blood pressure rise as he enters the building. He feels unmotivated and unsupported. By evening, Jim is tired and cranky. He wants to engage with his family. But instead, he pours a drink and tunes out his wife and kids.

Nancy’s mother, Jan, moved in with her family about a year ago after Jan had surgery. The plan was to help Jan through the first part of her recovery until she could live on her own again. But Jan since has had new health problems come up. She also resists moving out. Nancy spends most of her day caring for Jan or taking her to and from various appointments. She has had to give up most of her own interests and has no time for herself. Nancy also had to cancel an anniversary trip with her husband. Nancy loves her mom, but she resents her situation. This makes her feel guilty. She turns to “comfort” food when feeling down, and she has recently put on weight. She feels trapped.

Jim and Nancy’s stories make it easy to see how stress can spill over into all areas of life. Stressful situations that go on and on can destroy health, relationships and lives.

What can I do if I feel trapped by my stress?

To reduce your stress level and reclaim your life, you have two choices:

  1. Change your situation, if you can. Set limits. Plan ahead. Prioritize. Get help.
  2. Find ways to manage stress. Try relaxation techniques. Learn meditation skills. Learn deep breathing techniques. Start an aerobic exercise routine. Vent to friends or loved ones.

If you cannot cope with stress or if stress is creating problems in your life, call your doctor or a mental health provider. They can help you identify stressors you can control and come up with strategies to tackle stressors you cannot avoid. Consider cognitive-behavioral therapy to identify your automatic negative thoughts, feelings, and the behaviors so that you can strategically generate more positive attitudes and outcomes.

Resources

American Psychological Association
(800) 374-2721 or (202) 336-5500
www.apa.org

National Institute of Mental Health
(866) 615-6464 or (301) 443-4513
www.nimh.nih.gov

Mental Health America
(800) 969-6642 or (703) 684-7722
www.mentalhealthamerica.net

American Institute of Stress
(914) 963-1200
www.stress.org

Stress Management: Approaches for Preventing & Reducing Stress. Harvard Health Publications, 2011.

By Christine Martin
Source: American Psychological Association; National Institute of Mental Health; Stress Management: Approaches for Preventing & Reducing Stress. Harvard Health Publications, 2011. Shellenbarger, Sue. (2012) "When stress is good for you." Wall Street Journal. D1.
Reviewed by Lily Awad, MD, Associate Medical Director, Massachusetts Behavioral Health Partnership

Summary

  • We feel stressed when demands on our time and energy outweigh our resources and skills for coping.
  • Too much stress shows up through our health, feelings and actions, and affects all areas life.

Stress is part of life for all people. Some people carry heavy burdens—either by chance or by choice. Some people cope with routine pressures and unexpected challenges better than others. All these things contribute to the daily stress you feel.

Stress becomes a problem when it takes a toll on your health or well-being.

Why do I feel so stressed?

We feel stressed when demands on our time and energy outweigh our resources and skills for coping. This extra “weight on our shoulders” shows up through our health, feelings and actions. For instance, you may notice that you get sick easily when you are stressed out. You may worry a lot or have no energy. Or, you may be cranky and snap at your kids or partner for no reason.

Our stress level goes up and down over the course of our lifetime, and we can’t always predict stressful moments. Some situations and stages of life tend to be more stressful than others, such as:

  • Planning a wedding
  • Having a baby
  • Raising children
  • Getting divorced
  • Losing or changing jobs
  • Moving
  • Caregiving for an aging parent
  • Dealing with a serious or long-term illness
  • Death of a loved one

How can stress create problems in my life?

In the short-term, stress can help us to perform our best or overcome a challenge. But stress that builds up or lasts a long time can create problems at work or school, at home and with relationships.

The following stories describe real ways that stress can take a toll in your life. See if you identify how stress affects Jim and Nancy’s routines, feelings, choices and outlook.

Jim wakes up to the sound of his alarm every morning. He seldom feels refreshed because he often gets up in the middle of the night and has trouble falling back asleep. He skips breakfast so he can get a head start on his commute. Stuck in traffic for nearly an hour, Jim dwells on the many projects waiting for him at work. He tries to think about how he will tackle each task, but just feels overwhelmed. Once at work, Jim can feel his blood pressure rise as he enters the building. He feels unmotivated and unsupported. By evening, Jim is tired and cranky. He wants to engage with his family. But instead, he pours a drink and tunes out his wife and kids.

Nancy’s mother, Jan, moved in with her family about a year ago after Jan had surgery. The plan was to help Jan through the first part of her recovery until she could live on her own again. But Jan since has had new health problems come up. She also resists moving out. Nancy spends most of her day caring for Jan or taking her to and from various appointments. She has had to give up most of her own interests and has no time for herself. Nancy also had to cancel an anniversary trip with her husband. Nancy loves her mom, but she resents her situation. This makes her feel guilty. She turns to “comfort” food when feeling down, and she has recently put on weight. She feels trapped.

Jim and Nancy’s stories make it easy to see how stress can spill over into all areas of life. Stressful situations that go on and on can destroy health, relationships and lives.

What can I do if I feel trapped by my stress?

To reduce your stress level and reclaim your life, you have two choices:

  1. Change your situation, if you can. Set limits. Plan ahead. Prioritize. Get help.
  2. Find ways to manage stress. Try relaxation techniques. Learn meditation skills. Learn deep breathing techniques. Start an aerobic exercise routine. Vent to friends or loved ones.

If you cannot cope with stress or if stress is creating problems in your life, call your doctor or a mental health provider. They can help you identify stressors you can control and come up with strategies to tackle stressors you cannot avoid. Consider cognitive-behavioral therapy to identify your automatic negative thoughts, feelings, and the behaviors so that you can strategically generate more positive attitudes and outcomes.

Resources

American Psychological Association
(800) 374-2721 or (202) 336-5500
www.apa.org

National Institute of Mental Health
(866) 615-6464 or (301) 443-4513
www.nimh.nih.gov

Mental Health America
(800) 969-6642 or (703) 684-7722
www.mentalhealthamerica.net

American Institute of Stress
(914) 963-1200
www.stress.org

Stress Management: Approaches for Preventing & Reducing Stress. Harvard Health Publications, 2011.

By Christine Martin
Source: American Psychological Association; National Institute of Mental Health; Stress Management: Approaches for Preventing & Reducing Stress. Harvard Health Publications, 2011. Shellenbarger, Sue. (2012) "When stress is good for you." Wall Street Journal. D1.
Reviewed by Lily Awad, MD, Associate Medical Director, Massachusetts Behavioral Health Partnership

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