We all feel stress at one time or another. It's a normal and healthy reaction to change or a challenge. But stress that goes on for more than a few weeks can affect your health. Keep stress from making you sick by learning healthy ways to manage it.
LEARN TO RECOGNIZE STRESS
The first step in managing stress is recognizing it in your life. Everyone feels stress in a different way. You may get angry or irritable, lose sleep, or have headaches or stomach upset. What are your signs of stress? Once you know what signals to look for, you can start to manage it.
Also identify the situations that cause you stress. These are called stressors. Your stressors could be family, work, relationships, money, or health problems. Once you understand where your stress is coming from, you can come up with ways to deal with your stressors.
AVOID UNHEALTHY STRESS RELIEF
When you feel stressed, you may fall back on unhealthy behaviors to help you relax. These may include:
These behaviors may help you feel better at first, but they may hurt you more than they help. Instead, use the tips below to find healthy ways to reduce your stress.
FIND HEALTHY STRESS BUSTERS
There are many healthy ways to manage stress. Try a few and see which ones work best for you.
If you can't manage stress on your own, you may want to talk with your health care provider. Or consider seeing a therapist or counselor who can help you find other ways to deal with your stress. Depending on the cause of your stress, you also may find it helps to join a support group.
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National Institute of Mental Health. Fact sheet on stress. Accessed April 17, 2014.
US Department of Health and Human Services: Womenshealth.gov. Stress and your health fact sheet. July 2012. Accessed April 17, 2014.
Updated by: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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