How Stress Effects Your Health and How To Combat It


Stress, we all have experienced it, it is part of life that we cannot escape. Stress can be a good thing. For example, when we have an important project due, a presentation or speech to give, an upcoming job interview, or maybe even a big event such as a performance, stress can motivate us to get through the challenge, perform well, and finish the task at hand. In summary, stress can motivate us to get the job done.  Stress can also keep us alive! If we perceive we are in danger. Stress activates the fight or flight reaction, helping us to avoid dangerous situations. In this case, stress is necessary for survival. Short-term stress is temporary, short-lived, and can be positive if it motivates us to meet the challenge; however, repeated short-term stress can be debilitating and harmful to our health.

Too often stress can be long-term due to difficult situations we might find ourselves in for an extended period, such as a bad job, an unhappy relationship, elder care of our parents, difficult financial times, job loss, or major health problems. These challenges can cause a negative stress response and can lead to chronic stress. If we experience this stress long-term and are unable to manage it properly, this chronic stress can make us sick.

When stress starts interfering with our ability to function in our daily lives, it becomes dangerous to our health. Chronic stress can put us at increased risk for a variety of physical and mental health problems.


Examples of health issues we may experience when living with chronic stress:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Digestive issues
  • Headaches
  • Muscle tension and pain
  • Increased risk of coronary disease
  • Heart disease
  • Heart attack
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Stroke
  • Sleep problems
  • Weight gain
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Memory loss and forgetfulness

Chronic stress may also cause disease, due to bodily changes due to stress, lack of sleep, poor nutrition, overeating, smoking, alcohol and drug abuse, and other bad habits people use to cope with stress. Chronic stress also suppresses the immune system causing us to get sick more often and making it harder to recover if we do get sick.

Fortunately, some techniques and strategies can help us manage our stress. Reducing our stress level not only brings us quick relief but can also help us avoid certain adverse health conditions and diseases. Some of the strategies below are quick, some take a little more time. The important thing is to experiment and find what works for you.

Examples of ways to reduce stress:

  • Guided imagery
  • Meditation
  • Progressive muscle relaxation
  • Deep breathing
  • Going for a walk in nature
  • Hugs
  • Aromatherapy
  • Creativity, try painting, knitting, or taking a cooking class
  • Healthy diet
  • Leisure activities, do something fun
  • Positive self-talk
  • Yoga
  • Gratitude journal
  • Exercise in any form
  • Prioritize what is urgent and important
  • Social support
  • Identify sources of stress
  • Eliminating stressors
  • Journal (why am I stressed, how do I feel, how do I remedy)
  • Don’t over-commit (say no if needed)
  • Remove myself from the situation for 5 minutes (walk, deep breath, etc.)
  • Prayer
  • Stretch
  • Read
  • Listen to music
  • Call a friend to talk
  • Get a cup of tea or decaf and relax
  • Listen to a soundtrack of rain, thunderstorms, ocean waves
  • Lessen screen time
  • Learn to appreciate silence
  • Counseling


Try a Meditation App (Free):

  • Smiling Mind
  • UCLA
  • Plum Village


Here are a few techniques you can use to manage your stress. Give them a try.

  • Guided imagery is a form of visualization. Imagine your favorite place, where you are happy, calm, and relaxed. Maybe you are canoeing in a serene mountain lake or walking along the beach with the sand beneath your feet and the ocean mist on your face, or perhaps you are watching the snow fall while you are curled up next to the fireplace. Think about what you hear, smell, touch, and feel. This is your happy place. Savor everything about it. When you feel at peace and ready to open your eyes, come back to the present moment.
  • Meditation takes on many forms. You can sit with your thoughts nonjudgmentally, practice a breathing exercise, go through a visualization exercise, repeat a positive mantra in your head such as “I am enough.”, I am worthy.” “I can think positive thoughts,” or you can reflect on everything you are grateful for. The key is to be in the present moment without judgment. You can practice being present on your own or use a meditation app. There is a plethora of apps that can walk you through a long or short meditation.
  • Progressive Muscle Relaxation involves relaxing all the muscles in your body. Start by tightening and relaxing each muscle group, beginning with your forehead, then your jaw, shoulders, arms, chest, hips, legs and finally moving down to your toes. You will soon feel a wave of serenity settling in. This technique is very helpful if you are struggling to fall asleep.
  • Focus on Breathing. There are many ways to practice meditative breathing. One of the easiest ways is by using a technique called box breathing. This rhythmic breathing method helps promote relaxation and helps reduce stress. It is easy to do. Inhale through the nose for the count of 4, hold for 4, exhale through the mouth for 4, and hold for 4. Repeat for at least 4 rounds, more if you would like.
  • Keep a journal. Writing down your thoughts and emotions is an excellent way to release ruminating thoughts, reflect on your day, interject time and space between thoughts and actions, and focus on the present moment. You can have a specific journal dedicated to this ritual or just use any notebook. It is an easy way to release your thoughts and worries and place them somewhere other than your mind.

Remember that everyone experiences stress in their lives. If stress is long-term and you are unable to find relief, please consult with your doctor or a III-A Nurse Practitioner before it starts to affect your health. Help is available to you.


By: Jody Jensen Huerta, III-A Health Coach




Stress relievers: Tips to tame stress – Mayo Clinic

Stress Relief: 18 Highly Effective Strategies for Relieving Stress (

How stress affects your health (