Stress is your body's way of responding to any kind of demand. It can be caused by both good and bad experiences. When people feel stressed by something going on around them, their bodies react by releasing chemicals into the blood. These chemicals give people more energy and strength, which can be a good thing if their stress is caused by physical danger. But this can also be a bad thing, if their stress is in response to something emotional and there is no outlet for this extra energy and strength.
Many different things can cause stress -- from physical (such as fear of something dangerous) to emotional (such as worry over your family or job.) Identifying what may be causing you stress is often the first step in learning how to better deal with your stress. Some of the most common sources of stress are:
You may have heard the phrase "fight or flight" before. This is a common response to danger in all people and animals. When you are afraid that someone or something may physically hurt you, your body naturally responds with a burst of energy so that you will be better able to survive the dangerous situation (fight) or escape it all together (flight). This is survival stress.
Have you ever caught yourself worrying about things you can do nothing about or worrying for no reason at all? This is internal stress and it is one of the most important kinds of stress to understand and manage. Internal stress is when people make themselves stressed. This often happens when we worry about things we can't control or put ourselves in situations we know will cause us stress. Some people become addicted to the kind of hurried, tense, lifestyle that results from being under stress. They even look for stressful situations and feel stress about things that aren't stressful.
This is a response to things around you that cause stress, such as noise, crowding, and pressure from work or family. Identifying these environmental stresses and learning to avoid them or deal with them will help lower your stress level.
This kind of stress builds up over a long time and can take a hard toil on your body. It can be caused by working too much or too hard at your job(s), school, or home. It can also be caused by not knowing how to manage your time well or how to take time out for rest and relaxation. This can be one of the hardest kinds of stress to avoid because many people feel this is out of their control.
Stress can affect both your body and your mind. People under large amounts of stress can become tired, sick, and unable to concentrate or think clearly. Sometimes, they even suffer mental breakdowns.
Understanding your stress level is important. If nothing in your life causes you any stress or excitement, you may become bored or may not be living up to your potential. If everything in your life, or large portions of your life, cause you stress, you may experience health or mental problems that will make your behavior worse.
Recognizing when you are stressed and managing your stress can greatly improve your life. Some short-term stress - for example what you feel before an important job presentation, test, interview, or sporting event - may give you the extra energy you need to perform at your best. But long-term stress - for example constant worry over your job, school, or family - may actually drain your energy and your ability to perform well.
While these stress management techniques can help in the moment, you can also make a few larger changes to your way of life. Regular exercise is key to long-term stress management. People who exercise tend to have better moods and more energy than people who don't. What's more, regular exercise will independently lower your risks for many health problems.
Learning some relaxation techniques, meditation, or yoga will help with stress management, too. Getting good at any of these approaches will take a little time and practice, but the payoff - for your short-term mood and long-term health - could be substantial.