What Is Stress, How to Manage and Reduce It

Updated: Jan 15


Did you know that 83% of US workers suffer from work-related stress? Moreover, according to the American Institute of Stress, around 75%–90% of doctor visits in the United States are in some way related to stress.


In today’s world, chronic stress is quite a common thing and it’s normal to believe that stress helps you perform under pressure and motivates you to do your best at the workplace. However, it usually comes at a high price for your health.


For example, according to Oregon State University, individuals under constant stress have a 50% higher mortality rate, while people exposed to stressful life events have an 82.2% chance of suffering from constipation or a similar digestive issue.


In this blog post, I will explain what stress actually is, what are the main symptoms of stress, how to manage and reduce it.


So, What Is Stress?


Stress is the stimulating feeling one gets when facing a difficult situation or pressuring thoughts. Most of us live such busy lives that stress is a common occurrence for us. We commit ourselves to so many things on a daily basis; our work, families, friends and communities. We often question how we will fulfill all of our responsibilities. That constant feeling of pressure leads to chronic stress.


How Can Stress Affect Health?

You may think of stress as something that only affects your mental state on a day-to-day basis. However, chronic stress plays a huge role in our physical well-being. Some stress can be good for us and may provide us with small bursts of energy and increased attentiveness. Although, having too much stress can interfere with our daily functioning; creating brain fog, chronic headaches, fatigue, lack of concentration, an impaired immune system and other serious health problems. Stress can have a profound impact on your body weight, heart health, menstruation, skin complexion, and mental well-being.

Main Symptoms Of Stress



Many times, we experience the feeling of stress so often that it feels natural to us and we stop recognizing its presence. At that point, we are at an even greater risk of experiencing negative symptoms from stress. Chronic aches and pains, often accompanied by headaches are very common signs of stress weighing on our health. Forgetfulness and lack of concentration are both typical indications of uncontrolled daily stress. Unexplained irritability is also attributed to chronic distress.

Some other symptoms of stress include:

1. Depression Depression is a mental health problem that generally involves a low mood and an overall loss of interests. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), in 2015, around 16.1 million adults in the USA had experienced at least one major depressive episode, which represented 6.7% of all American adults aged 18 or older.

2. Anxiety

Anxiety is characterized by feelings of fear or apprehension about the future. And usually, the symptoms of anxiety include:

  • increased heart rate;

  • rapid breathing;

  • trouble concentrating;

  • insomnia or difficulty falling asleep.


3. Irritability

Irritability is a feeling of agitation or even anger - definitely something that everyone has felt at least a few times in life. However, some people describe “agitation” as a more severe form of irritability.


4. Sudden Change of Mood

Stress can lead you to feel like you’re experiencing mood swings - one minute you’re happy, another minute in tears. Some of the mood swings can easily be treated by relaxation and/or mindfulness techniques, but for more serious mood swings that don’t seem to go away, you would need to get help from a mental health professional.

It is really important to recognize the symptoms in time and to deal with them accordingly. I will cover all of these types in details below.


Chronic Health Conditions Triggered by Stress

In my practice, I have had the opportunity to work with several thousand people over the years. One thing stands out to me when it comes to stress and that thing is that most people don’t make the connection between stress and chronic diseases. Two of the most commonly associated chronic conditions are high cholesterol, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. When people are under high amounts of stress, drugs for these conditions rarely help. The truth is, the source of the problem, which is the stress always has to be addressed in order for them to get better.


Taking Action Against Stress



Stress management may be achieved through proper counseling and lifestyle changes. Having a holistic approach to your health by addressing mind, body and spirit is the model I have used in my online clinic for years. That is really the only way to address stress long-term. Ideally, a holistic approach will create a customized program for managing stress and maintaining good health.

Tips For Dealing With The Symptoms Of Stress


1. Breathing exercises

A simple breathing exercise can immediately calm the body’s nervous system and ease an overactive mind. Your breathing pattern must provide an exhale that is longer than your inhale in order to provide a calming effect. Follow these steps as many times daily as needed.


Step-by-Step Instructions:

To begin, sit still and tall somewhere comfortable.

Close your eyes and being breathing through your nose.

Then, inhale for a count of two… hold the breath in for a count of one… exhale gently, counting out for four… and finish by holding the breath out for a count of one.

Keep your breathing even and smooth.

If the 2-4 count feels too short try increasing the breath lengths to 4 in and 6 out, or 6 in and 8 out, and so on.

But if longer breaths create any anxiety there is no need to push yourself.

The most important thing is that the exhale is longer than the inhale, not the absolute length of the breath.

Set a timer and breathe this way for at least five minutes!

You will see a difference in your mood.


2. Maintain an adequate sleep schedule

Ensure that you get a healthy 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night. Eliminate caffeine, eliminate the use of technology such as television, computers or handheld devices at least one hour prior to sleep.


3. Practice relaxation exercises

Yoga, Tai Chi, general daily stretching and other relaxation exercises not only help reduce stress but also boost immune functioning.


4. Follow a healthy diet

Eat lots of fruits and vegetables and avoid high-sugar and processed foods.


These tips will definitely help you get through a stressful period of your life.

And how do you deal with stress? Please let me know in the comments.

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© Dr. Parkes 2020