Stress is what you feel when you have to handle more than you are used
to. When you are stressed, your body responds as though you are in danger. It
makes hormones that speed up your heart, make you breathe faster, and give you
a burst of energy. This is called the fight-or-flight
Some stress is normal
and even useful. Stress can help if you need to work hard or react quickly. For
example, it can help you win a race or finish an important job on time.
When she needs relief from the grind of delivering major proposals, Dana Marlowe, 33, of Washington, D.C., makes some noise. "I cruise right into my toddler’s playroom, and I just jam out with his toys -- the xylophone, the baby piano. I almost have 'Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star' down," says Marlowe, a technology accessibility consultant.
This kind of casual music-making can short-circuit the stress response, research shows, and keep it from becoming chronic. Stress starts in the brain and then...
But if stress happens too often or lasts too long, it can have bad
effects. It can be linked to headaches, an upset stomach, back pain, and
trouble sleeping. It can weaken your
immune system, making it harder to fight off disease.
If you already have a health problem, stress may make it worse. It can make you
moody, tense, or depressed. Your relationships may suffer, and you may not do
well at work or school.
What can you do about stress?
The good news is
that you can learn ways to manage stress. To get stress under control:
Find out what is causing stress in your
Look for ways to reduce the amount of stress in your
Learn healthy ways to relieve stress and reduce its harmful
How do you measure your stress level?
is clear where stress is coming from. You can count on stress during a major
life change such as the death of a loved one, getting married, or having a
baby. But other times it may not be so clear why you feel stressed.
It's important to figure out what causes stress for you. Everyone feels
and responds to stress differently. Tracking your stress may help. Get a
notebook, and write down when something makes you feel stressed. Then write how
you reacted and what you did to deal with the stress. Tracking your stress can help you find out what is causing your stress and how much stress you feel.
Then you can take steps to reduce the stress or handle it better.
To find out how stressed you are right now, use this
Interactive Tool: What Is Your Stress Level?