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Living Well News – Handling Stress

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Impact of Stress on our Health

It might seem puzzling as to why your doctor might refer you to a behavior therapist after your physical or perhaps in response to your not feeling well or being sick. You may ask “Why do I need to talk with someone about this?” It may also feel as though your physical ails are being perceived as being all “in your head.” These would be normal responses. But, there may be a part missing; the conversation linking the impact of stress to your physical health. This is why your doctor is concerned and why he or she wants you to “Talk to someone.”

Our lives have grown busy. Many of us are juggling multiple tasks and priorities in a given day. This juggling act has become the “New normal.” However, just because these demands have increased, along with the expectation of meeting them, doesn’t mean that our bodies and minds don’t have a response.

Stress has free reign over our health when we allow it. Stress helps account for two-thirds of family doctor visits and, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, half the deaths to Americans under 65.

What is Stress?

Stress itself is neither good nor bad. It is simply our response to something that is blocking our movement forward.

When a goal that we are trying to reach is blocked, the resulting feeling is that of stress. The more threatening the block is perceived to be the more intensive the stress.  However, it is how we view the stressor and how well equipped we feel to work through it is what impacts our reaction or “stress response.”

Your doctor is aware that when stress is not relieved and continues for an extended period of time, or even very intensive short-term stress, can lead to burnout.  When we are burned out we often lose touch with feeling as well as our inner motivation.  Our desire and ability to take care of ourselves decreases and we can feel detached and apathetic. We then become more vulnerable to sickness and disease, because our immune systems become compromised.

Health Risks

Prolonged stress can impact the development of:

Depression, Alcohol abuse/ addiction, Chronic pain Irritable bowel disease, Acid reflux, Migraine headaches, Cancer, Insomnia

These are just a few health issues which can be influence by prolonged or even acute intensive stress. Keeping an eye out for early warning signs are key in prevention.

Notice changes in:

  • Appetite/ food cravings
  • Sleep
  • Temper
  • Energy/ motivation
  • Mood
  • Concentration
  • Sociability
  • Sex drive
  • Frequent colds or illnesses


Disturbance in these areas of functioning are generally signs that something needs to change.  In these times of multiple demands, most of us need to improve our self care and life skills, to be able to be more effective — Increasing our ability to be flexible and resilient in the face of stress.

10 “Just in Time” Stress Busters

  1. Breathe. Each new breath is a new moment.
  2. Stretch. Release physical and mental tension.
  3. Short brisk walk. Move the body and rejuvenate the mind.
  4. Notice beauty around you. Cease thinking and notice your surroundings; a flower, sunset, or the feel of the morning air. Take it in.
  5. Know the difference between thinking and reality. Thoughts are not always true.
  6. Keep a solutions-focused mindset. Remember, most problems have solutions and we don’t need to figure them out alone.
  7. Talk to a trusted friend. Connect with positive people.
  8. Recall a pleasant event. Relive that event in your mind, noticing the details and what was enjoyable.
  9. Listen to your favorite music. Focus on the instruments, rhythm, and how the music makes you feel.
  10. Go to bed early. Give your body the gift of a good night’s sleep. Let your body “reset” itself.


Just as we can develop a “stress response” we can also develop a “relaxation response.” Dr. Herbert Benson’s work (Harvard Medical School) explains the mind-body connection, helping us understand how to help ourselves with managing stress and restoring physiological balance.

About the Author
Paula Tropiano is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Addictions Specialist providing holistic – skills based counseling and therapy to adults in West Chester, PA. (610) 692-4995.