Stress Management

What is stress?

Stress is when you feel worried or your mind is busy because of something difficult happening or something you must do. Everyone has felt stressed before. Stress goes away when the thing making you stressed is over or is not a problem anymore. Long-term stress is when stressful things keep happening for a long time. This kind of stress can affect how your body feels and how you feel inside. Stressful things can increase your blood pressure but it reduces when the stressful thing is done. When you are stressed, your body, mind, and feelings might react in different ways. Here are the symptoms people experience when stressed:

Symptoms of Chronic (Long-Term) Stress

Physical Cognitive or Mental Emotional


Inability to focus

Experiencing low self-esteem

Aches, pains, and tense muscles

Racing thoughts

Unmotivated or feeling overwhelmed

Nervousness and shaking

Constant worrying

Mood swings

Upset stomach

Forgetfulness and disorganization



Heightened or lowered alertness


Clenched jaw and grinding of teeth

Poor problem-solving ability


Increased heart rate


How does Stress Affect the Body?

Stress does not only change how you feel, but it can also affect your body. Here are some body parts stress can affect and what it does:

Body Systems Stress Effects


Impaired communication between glucocorticoids (stress hormones) and the immune system has been linked to chronic fatigue, diabetes, immune disorders, and obesity.


Can tense up muscles and cause tension headaches, shoulder, and back pain.


May result in shortness of breath or rapid breathing. Can lead to an asthma attack and a panic attack.


An increase in heart rate contracts the heart muscles which elevates blood pressure and contributes to inflammation of the circulatory system.


Digestive activities such as absorption of nutrients are suppressed during stress and can contribute to inflammatory diseases such as Crohn’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome.


Short-term: adrenaline and cortisol (stress hormones) cause the body to focus energy resources on flight or fight responses. Long-term: overexposure to cortisol can cause thyroid problems and can also increase abdominal fat.


Men: may negatively affect production and maturation of sperm; can cause a decrease in testosterone. Women: may experience irregular menstrual cycles, difficulty conceiving, and complications during pregnancy.


Effects of stress hormones on the immune process may weaken the immune system and increase vulnerability to frequent infections and poor wound healing.

What Strategies Can Be Used to Manage Stress?

  • Understand what is making you feel stressed.
  • Try imagining calm places, praying, yoga, deep breathing, getting a massage, meditation, and focusing on a calming word to help relax.
  • Stay close with your friends and family. They can help when you feel stressed.
  • Volunteer to help others in your community. Helping others can help you feel less stressed.
  • Take care of yourself:
        • Practice mindfulness
        • Take time to unwind at the end of the day.
        • Decide and rank what is important to you, then act on it.
  • Partake in healthy behaviors:
        • Get enough good quality sleep (at least 8 hours of sleep each night)
        • Exercise regularly
        • Eat healthy foods
  • Practice expressing gratitude to others.
  • Seek professional support to help with daily tasks, big problems, or decisions.

Stress Management Quiz

Long-term stress can affect both your mental well-being and your physical health.
Stress is only a temporary feeling that goes away once the stressful situation is resolved.
Strategies to manage stress include participating in mindfulness activities, exercising regularly, and journaling.


Cohen S, Janicki-Deverts D, Miller GE. Psychological stress and disease. JAMA. 2007; 298:1685– 1687. [PubMed: 17925521]

Harvard Health Publishing. (2020). Understanding the stress response.

Adapted from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. (2013, December 30). Traumatic Incidence Stress.

Source: Adapted from Yaribeygi, H., Panahi, Y., Sahraei, H., Johnston, T. P., & Sahebkar, A. (2017). The impact of stress on body function: A review. EXCLI journal16, 1057–1072.

American Psychological Association. (2018, November 1). Stress effects on the body.