Stress is how your body, your thinking, or your feelings respond to what’s happening in your life.  When a problem comes along your body responds like you are in danger.  The problem can be large or small. 

When you are stressed your body releases chemicals that make you more alert, tense and ready for action. 

Here are some stress symptoms:

  • Your heart beats faster sending more blood to your muscles and brain;
  • Your blood pressure goes up;
  • You start to breathe faster;
  • Your digestion slows down;
  • You may start to sweat more;
  • You feel a rush of energy; and
  • Your pupils get bigger to let more light into your eyes.

These changes make sure your body is ready for action.  When the danger, or the cause of the stress, isn’t there anymore your brain should tell your body to stop making the chemicals that made you feel stressed.   However, when that message doesn’t get sent to your brain you will continue to feel stressed.  Or a new problem can come along before your body can get over the stress.  If that happens you don’t get a break from the stress.

Signs of stress can include:

  • Headache,
  • Stiff neck,
  • Backache,
  • Sweaty palms, 
  • An upset stomach,
  • You may be more irritable, lose your temper and not be able to put up with even small disturbances. 
  • You may feel jumpy or exhausted all the time. 
  • You may find it hard to concentrate.

Some people try to get rid of stress by smoking, drinking, overeating, using drugs or just “shutting down.” Some people take it out on others and become violent or abusive.

Here are some things you can try to reduce stress in your life.

  • Talk about your stress: Talking about a problem with a close friend or your partner is a good way to reduce tension and stress.
  • Cry: Crying can relieve stress.  It’s part of an emotional healing process.
  • Get moving: After a long walk your stress level is usually lower.
  • Be kind to your body and mind: Get enough sleep; eat a healthy diet; do things you enjoy.
  • Learn relaxation and meditation skills: Doing full deep breathing is a good way to reduce tension. Learn how to relax with deep breathing do for 3 to 5 minutes at a time. Learn muscle relaxation skills. You can learn all these skills from your health care provider or other health and wellness professionals. Learn meditation skills. There are good books on meditation and you can learn more on the Internet or by joining a meditation group.