Stress can affect your mental and physical health. Learning to manage stress better can lead to improved heart health, mental health, sleep, and more.
You may feel overwhelmed and exhausted if you’re dealing with high-stress levels. Stress can cause poor physical and mental health. It may affect all bodily systems and can influence your mood.
Stress is part of your body’s response to pressure, which includes dealing with life’s demands. Most people feel stressed from time to time, but some individuals experience prolonged or chronic stress. Any stress can be a risk factor for mental health conditions.
That said, stress isn’t always bad. Sometimes, you can experience stress from positive events — like going on a rollercoaster, your first kiss with someone new, or starting a new job.
Using strategies to better cope with stress can provide many benefits. Here are six examples supported by research.
High blood pressure is also known as hypertension. It’s linked with stroke and chronic and coronary heart disease and is responsible for around
Reducing stress may reduce your blood pressure and your overall physical health.
Mental health conditions like depression and anxiety are often linked to stress.
For instance, a 2020 study examined the stress levels of 11,954 college students. It found that uncertainty stress — defined as anxiety in facing ambiguous situations and problematic environments — was linked with high levels of mental health conditions.
Depression and anxiety can involve ups and downs in mood and make everyday activities challenging. For instance, these conditions may affect your work and school performance.
Although it’s impossible to completely avoid stress, learning stress management techniques may improve your mood. It can also improve performance and lower your risk of developing mental health conditions.
Chronic stress can affect your heart rate.
A 2020 study assessed the long-term stress levels of 328 office workers and measured their heart rate over 5 days. The study found that chronic stress can:
- increase your heart rate
- disrupt your circadian rhythm and sleep
- increase the risk of heart disease.
This suggests that managing stress could reduce your heart rate, improve your overall physical well-being, and mitigate your risk of heart disease.
Stress and sleep are connected.
If you experience chronic stress, you may find it hard to get enough quality sleep. In return, this can cause anxiety and irritable mood.
For example, recent 2022 research found that stress can make falling and staying asleep difficult. It may also reduce sleep duration.
This suggests that stress-reduction techniques, particularly before bed, could help you sleep better.
When you feel stressed, your muscles may be tense. Sometimes, this can cause soreness or pain.
Stress can also make you feel like you have a short fuse, making you more reactive toward others.
Research from 2020 in 50 students found that tension headaches often resulted from feeling stressed. Those with higher stress levels experienced more tension headaches.
Based on this, it’s likely that stress management could reduce muscle tension, feelings of irritability, and tension headaches.
Focusing on activities like school and work can be challenging when you’re stressed.
For example, a
This suggests that using stress management techniques during chronic stress might improve your focus, attention, and ability to get things done.
Stress has many effects on your body and mind.
For instance, experiencing stress can disrupt your attention, cause poor mental health, and increase your risk of disease.
You can try these strategies to cope with stress:
- engaging in physical activity
- practicing mindfulness
- finding a creative coping outlet
- using a support system
- getting enough sleep
To learn more about the impacts of stress and how to deal with it effectively, consider these resources:
American Heart Association: stress management GREAT: helpful practices to manage stress and anxiety
- National Alliance on Mental Illness: managing stress
If you deal with the impacts of chronic stress, implementing stress management strategies may improve your quality of life.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to a healthcare professional like your doctor, a therapist, or an online support service for tailored advice and treatment options.
Looking for a therapist but not sure where to start? Psych Central’s How to Find Mental Health Support resource can help.