Understanding and Addressing Stress

Feeling stressed? You’re not alone. Recent studies show that more people are experiencing higher levels of stress these days and for longer periods.

Stress is often defined as a normal reaction to everyday challenges. It can be short-term, long-term, or recurring. It also falls on a spectrum, from mild to severe.

Our stress response is wired into our DNA and is often referred to as our fight, flight, or freeze response. When we experience stress, our body releases stress hormones, which influence how we think, feel, and act.

Our stress response has been an important survival tool, especially when facing immediate stressors. However, much of today’s stress is recurring or long-term, causing our stress hormones to remain elevated for longer periods, without having a chance to return to normal.

When stress hormones remain elevated, especially for weeks, months, or years, they can negatively impact our physical health, mental health, and behaviors.

Ten years ago, life’s most common stressors centered around money, work, family responsibilities, and health concerns. While these common stressors are still with us, studies show that more people are experiencing stress from today’s larger socio-economic challenges, such as inflation, violence, and political divisiveness.

While it’s always helpful to address the underlying issues causing the stress, many larger issues remain beyond our control.  When that’s the case, it’s helpful to know how to manage stress to help minimize its harmful impact. Here are some strategies to keep in mind:

  • Accept that life has uncertainties.
    It’s helpful to focus on what remains within your control, whatever the circumstances.
  • Disrupt negative thinking.
    Avoid ruminating on the past or worrying about potential consequences. If you find yourself spiraling into negative thinking or worst-case scenarios, focus instead on the best possible outcomes and try to take steps in that direction.
  • Build healthy routines.
    A lifestyle centered around healthy eating, sleeping, exercising, socializing, and moderation can help strengthen your physical, mental, and emotional health—and help you find that inner strength for managing challenges.
  • Take action. 
    Voting, volunteering, reaching out to friends, and getting involved in the community are meaningful activities that can help relieve stress and improve stressful situations.
  • Get empowered.
    Your Assistance Program is a tool that can help you manage life’s many challenges by providing a whole health approach to wellness, with services to help you strengthen your mental health, physical health, financial health, and relationships, and find support and referrals for managing life’s many other challenges.

To learn more about stress, check out Your Complete Guide to Understanding and Managing Stress. To learn more about your Assistance Program and gain access to your free and confidential services, please visit Member Support.