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Understanding how stress affects the body


Feeling stressed out? It can have lasting effects on your health and well-being. But luckily, you can manage stress and its symptoms to help you feel better.

Stress is a fact of life

A 2022 American Psychological Association survey found that a whopping 76% of respondents reported experiencing at least one symptom of stress over the past month. And stressors from the COVID-19 pandemic only made matters worse.

Sometimes we stress over good things, such as a new job, an upcoming wedding or a new baby. And other times, we stress over not-so-good things such as being sick, working too much or family drama.

Chronic stress can affect your mental and physical health.

When you are stressed, your body releases cortisol and other stress hormones. If this bodily response to stress goes on for a long period of time, it can put you at risk for certain health conditions, such as:

  • digestive problems and weight gain
  • anxiety and depression


  • sleep problems
  • memory and concentration issues
  • high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke

What can you do about stress?

There are small stress-fighting changes you can try. You can lower your stress by:

  • Finding a friend. Take a 60-second social break to message someone with a, “Hello!” And if it turns into a longer chat, that’s fine too. Friendship is important.
  • Moving your body more. Movement is good for your heart and your mind. Dance like crazy to get the funk out, try hula-hooping, briskly walk around the block and listen to the birds or take that exercise class you’ve always wanted to try. Bonus points if you laugh while you’re moving!
  • Hitting the hay. Getting enough sleep can help you feel less cranky and overwhelmed, as well as more productive and creative. If you want those benefits, you need to get to bed earlier! Turn off the screen(s) and wind down with a book instead.

Sleep experts suggest adults aim for about seven to nine hours of sleep a night.

Being with your breath. You’ve been breathing your whole life but learning to focus on your breath can help kickstart your body’s relaxation response.

Deep breathing is one of several ways to help your body relax. Try it! You’ll be getting your Zen on in no time. Here’s how:

Get comfy and take a normal breath.

Next, take a deep breath slowly through your nose, filling up your chest and stomach. Let your belly really puff out!

Now breathe out slowly through your mouth (or nose) and repeat.

De-stressing can be easy and fun. Which stress-busting strategy are you going to try?

Info from American Heart Association