Does Stress Affect Mental Health
As I was deciding what to write about today I was trying to figure out the best keywords. I knew I wanted to write about stress and how it affects us mentally. As in, I know stress can affect our moods and mental health. Try as I might I couldn’t figure out the right way to word the title of this post. I searched and searched for like 20 minutes before I decided on does stress affect mental health. I’ll tell you what, by the time I figured it out I was stressed! And kind of pissed off! I was mad that it took me that long to figure out how to word it. So even just figuring out how to write about stress affected my mental health! What the heck!
What Is Stress
There are a lot of definitions of stress floating around out there. For our purposes we will define stress as a physical, mental, or emotional strain or tension. Lots of things can cause us stress and not all of them are bad. I recently started a new job and was both excited and stressed about it. I am only 2 weeks into my new job and still getting settled in. While I am extremely excited about the opportunity and the company, it also causes me some stress. The “can I deliver the results I want to” kind of stress. This isn’t really a bad stress.
The way I think of stress is all the things we worry about. Some of the things are within our control, others are not. Am I going to be able to save enough money for retirement? The health of my parents. I am worried now that my daughter that just turned 16 and got her drivers license. She drove herself to work today. Yikes! Will my heater make it through another winter? You get the point. Lots of things going on in our lives can cause us stress. These in turn can take both a physical and mental toll on our bodies and minds.
Physical Signs of Stress
Some stress isn’t really a bad thing, it’s a way of life. When we get too many stressors in our lives, that’s when it can start to affect us both physically and mentally. Before we look at does stress affect mental health let’s look at how it can affect us physically. Some of the physical signs of stress can include:
- Muscle tension, especially in your jaw area, neck, and upper shoulders
- Nausea or upset stomach
- Difficulty sleeping
- Having an increased heart rate
- Higher blood pressure
- Frequent headaches
- A lowered effectiveness of your immune system, you get sicker easier and more often
- Skin rashes and/or hives
- Lowered sex drive
- Occasional dizziness
As you can see, excessive stress can show up in a wide variety of physical symptoms. My youngest daughter gets an upset stomach when she is stressed. For me I usually have a harder time sleeping and get more irritable. It can present itself different in different people.
How Stress Affects Mental Health
So to answer the question does stress affect mental health the answer is yes. Stress can affect your mental health in a variety of ways. When you are under stress for a long time stress might show up as:
- Increased irritability
- Ongoing frustration and anger
- Increase in aggressive feelings and potentially actions
- Lessened interest in daily life activities
- Reduced work efficiency and productivity
- Social withdrawal and isolation
- Increased strain on relationships with spouse, kids, or other family members
- Decline in communication
- Potential lying and miscommunication
- Thinking can become cloudy and disjointed
- Decline in motivation and wanting to do things
- Potential sadness and in ongoing cases could lead to depression
- Feelings of being overwhelmed
This is by no means a comprehensive list. There are other ways that stress can affect you mentally. The above are some of the more common symptoms.
Manage Your Stress
While stress is a part of most people’s lives, there are ways to manage it. I am not going to go into too much depth here, I’ll save that for another article. After I discuss a few ways to help manage stress, I list some resources below. Check them out if you feel you could use some health managing your stress.
Get enough sleep – one of the quick ways to help manage your stress is to try to take care of your body and mind by getting enough rest.
Eat right – this is one of those basic things but taking the time to eat right will help your body fight the symptoms of stress. Or at least prepare it better.
Keep things in perspective – sometimes I get all wound up over things I can’t control. When I find myself going to far down the stress path I remind myself that it’s all relative. Most of the time the thing I am stressing over is actually not worth it in the grand scheme of things.
Have time for fun – remember the whole “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”? Well, not only does it make Jack a dull boy, it makes him a bundle of stress also. Take time to enjoy life and have fun with family and friends. Or your dog, whatever work for you.
Meditate – mediation has been shown to be a great way to help manage stress. I know when I do it even for 15 minutes at night I sleep really well.
Lower your caffeine – I mean, come on. This is kind of a no brainer right? If you are already agitated and jumpy due to stress, don’t put more things in your body to make it worse.
Take control – A big part of the reason why we stress is because we don’t feel like we are in control. This might be our retirement savings or the job that causes us stress. Remember, you always have control to make a change in your life. Don’t sit on the sidelines, do something about it.
As I’ve gotten into the habit of I am going to include a few thoughts on things that can help. In this case, things that might be helpful to managing stress so that it doesn’t impact us mentally more than it needs to.
Managing Stress: Principles and Strategies For Health and Well-Being – by Brian Luke Seaward
The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook (New Harbinger Self Help Workbook) – by Martha Davis, Elizabeth Robbins, and Matthew McKay
I Want To Be Calm: How To De-Stress – by Harriet Griffey
Bath and Body Works, Aromatherapy Stress Relief 3-Wick Candle, Eucalyptus Spearmint – by Bath and Body Works
Stress Balls Bulk 1 Dozen Toy Balls For Relaxing – by Neliblu
Does stress affect mental health? Without a doubt it does. Keep in mind that stress in general isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Too much stress is a bad for us both mentally and physically. It’s easy to answer does stress affect mental health but worth remembering we can do something about it. We always have the power to control our lives. Having control over every situation isn’t possible but we can control our reaction and how we deal with it.
We get caught up in the hamster wheel of life and it’s easy to let stress overwhelm us. Stress can affect our mental health and general outlook on life. Keep stress in it’s proper place by taking the time to manage it.
In good mental health,