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How Does Stress Affect Us?

Coping with stress in a helpful way is a challenge for most people. But you hear about how we should all learn to deal with stress more effectively. Because left unchecked, overwhelming stress can cause significant problems in our lives — and we may not even recognize it.

It is not unusual to hear ourselves talk with friends, coworkers, and family members about the difficulty we have with managing the stress of everyday living. We talk about being burned out, overwhelmed and “losing it.” We also hear and talk about our efforts to control the events that cause stress, and most of us understand the results of not controlling our reactions to stress.

Yes, we know that stress may cause heart disease. And it has been implicated in the cause or increase of severity of a dozen other medical and physical conditions. Stress will exacerbate pain, and research has shown that it will increase healing time for virtually any injury.

But most of us are unaware of the many other emotional, cognitive and physical consequences of unmanaged stress.

  • Over 43 percent of all adults suffer adverse health effects from stress.
  • Somewhere between 75 to 90 percent of all physician office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints.
  • Stress is linked to the six leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver, and suicide.
  • The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has declared stress a hazard of the workplace.

Even worse, stress can be expensive. We all pay a “stress tax” whether we realize it or not. And one in four people in a 2014 poll say they’ve taken a “mental health day” as a result of work stress.

Some scientists believe that stress activates the “fight-or-flight” response in our autonomous nervous system. This means we are inadvertently priming our body for an immediate response to a situation. The problem is that the situation our body is getting ready for may be daily or chronic. Our body and mind then suffer from fatigue at being “always at the ready.” When a person doesn’t find a way to relieve that daily stress, it builds up over time.

While stress plays havoc with our health, productivity, pocketbooks, and lives, stress is necessary, even desirable. Exciting or challenging events such as the birth of a child, completion of a major project at work, or moving to a new city generate as much stress as does tragedy or disaster. And without it, life would be dull.

In short, stress is very problematic in our life unless we deal with it in a healthy and productive manner. That may include doing things like engaging in stress-relieving activities, hobbies, exercise, or even a daily walk to try and induce a state of mindfulness and relaxation. Taking time for yourself once a day — even if it’s just 15 minutes — can also be helpful.

How Does Stress Affect Us?


Michael Ashworth, Ph.D.

APA Reference
Ashworth, M. (2019). How Does Stress Affect Us?. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 19, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/lib/how-does-stress-affect-us/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 19 Jun 2019
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 19 Jun 2019
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.