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 stress response.
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.
By Alia Hoyt
Some people just know how to push our buttons, and actually seem to enjoy it. If you are laid back, don't like confrontation or are just sensitive (like I am), dreading the snarky comments that are sure to come from your frenemy/crazy uncle/estranged stepmother can cause serious stress -- and threaten to ruin your perfectly lovely holiday gathering.
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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 life.
Look for ways to reduce the amount of stress in your life.
Learn healthy ways to relieve stress and reduce its harmful effects.
How do you measure your stress level?
Sometimes it 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?