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Stress Management

Stress Management

Stress affects us through many avenues-work, home, community involvement, and the holidays, to name a few. The following information and resources will help you understand the effects of stress and learn better ways to manage it.

What is stress?

Stress is your body's normal physical response to events that make you feel threatened or upset your balance in some way. These reactions can have positive and negative effects.

Stress has positive effects when it makes us deal constructively with daily problems and challenges. It can help you stay focused, energetic, and alert. But if it becomes continuous, stress stops being helpful and starts causing negative effects on your health, your mood, your productivity, your relationships, and your quality of life. If not managed, stress can lead to high blood pressures, heart disease, drug and alcohol abuse, or depression.

What causes stress?

Stress is often caused by some type of change. Even positive changes, like marriage or a job promotion, can be stressful. Stress can be short-term or long-term.

Common Causes of...

...short-term stress

  • Too much to do and not much time
  • Lots of little problems in the same day
  • Getting lost
  • Having an argument

...long-term stress

  • Illness
  • Divorce or problems in a marriage
  • Death of a loved one
  • Problems at work
  • Money problems
  • Caring for someone who is sick

What are the signs of stress?

Stress Warning Signs and Symptoms

Cognitive Symptoms

  • Memory problems
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Poor judgment
  • Seeing only the negative
  • Anxious or racing thoughts
  • Constant worrying

Emotional Symptoms

  • Moodiness
  • Irritability or short temper
  • Agitation, inability to relax
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Sense of loneliness and isolation
  • Depression or general unhappiness

Physical Symptoms

  • Aches and pains
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Nausea, dizziness
  • Chest pain, rapid heartbeat
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Frequent colds

Behavioral Symptoms

  • Eating more or less
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Isolating yourself from others
  • Procrastinating or neglecting responsibilities
  • Using alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs to relax
  • Nervous habits (e.g. nail biting, pacing)

What are the health effects of stress?

The long-term activation of the stress-response system-and the subsequent overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones-can disrupt almost all your body's processes. This puts you at increased risk of numerous health problems, including:

  • Heart disease
  • Sleep problems
  • Digestive problems
  • Depression
  • Obesity
  • Memory impairment
  • Worsening of skin conditions, such as eczema

That's why it's so important to find healthy ways to manage the stress in your life.

What are the benefits of managing stress?

Managing stress can help you:

  • Sleep better
  • Control your weight
  • Lessen neck and back pain
  • Get along better with family and friends
  • Concentrate

It's important to stay positive. Being prepared and in control of your situation will help you feel less stress.

Take action at work

Follow these tips for preventing and managing stress at work.

  • Plan your time. Think ahead about how you are going to use your time. Write a to–do list and decide which tasks are the most important. Be realistic about how long each task will take. Read more time management tips.
  • Prepare yourself. Giving a presentation or having a difficult conversation with a co-worker can be quite stressful. Explore the many Professional and Organizational Development courses designed to help you prepare for such events.
  • Relax with deep breathing. Excessive stress often causes us to hold our breath or take shallow breaths. Try these 5-minute relaxation techniques.
  • Relax your muscles. Stress causes tension in your muscles. Stretching can help you relax.
  • Exercise daily. Physical activity can reduce the effects of stress, relax your muscles, and improve your overall mood. Read more about fitness.
  • Good nutrition. Stress and poor eating habits often go together. Give your body plenty of energy by eating fruits, vegetables, and protein throughout the day. Read more about nutrition.
  • Get help if you need it. The UW has many resources available to help you through stress.

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