Stress is the body’s response to physical, emotional, or mental pressure. When you’re stressed, your body goes into fight-or-flight mode and releases hormones that give you energy and make you more alert by raising your heart rate, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels.

A short burst of stress can be beneficial because it can help you avoid an accidental collision or power through work to meet an important deadline.

While it’s normal to feel stressed from time to time, being chronically stressed can affect your mental and physical health.

If you’re frequently stressed out, you may find that you’re constantly nervous, uneasy, worried, and unable to sleep. These feelings can be overwhelming and difficult to live with. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to be less stressed.

This article discusses the characteristics, effects, and potential causes of stress and suggests some strategies that can help you better manage your stress levels.

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Characteristics of Stressed People

These are some of the emotional characteristics of stressed people as compared to people who are more relaxed.

Stressed People

  • Feeling nervous or anxious

  • Getting angry or frustrated

  • Getting upset or crying easily

  • Constantly worrying about something

  • Frequently feeling overwhelmed

  • Often feeling unable to cope

  • Feeling like you’re losing control

Relaxed People

  • Feeling calm and collected

  • Being patient and tolerant

  • Being able to regulate emotions

  • Not sweating the small stuff

  • Generally feeling confident

  • Having faith in your ability to cope

  • Feeling like you have everything under control

Potential Causes of Stress

These are some of the potential causes of stress:

  • Daily pressures, such as the needs of your family, the stress of parenting, the demands of work or school, the traffic on your commute, and other everyday responsibilities and hassles
  • Life events, such as a divorce, major break-up, loss of a loved one, serious illness, loss of a job, or other challenging circumstances
  • Traumatic events, such as a hurricane, flood, earthquake, car accident, rape, war, or any other event that puts you at risk of death or serious harm
  • Financial worries due to debt, loss of income, lower economic status, or limited access to opportunities and resources
  • Discrimination based on factors such as gender, sexual orientation, appearance, race, ethnicity, nationality, languages spoken, or immigration status
  • Social and environmental issues, such as social injustice, pollution, climate change, and other concerns

Effects of Stress

When you’re extremely stressed out, you may experience symptoms such as:

  • Fatigue
  • Lack of energy
  • Forgetfulness 
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Headaches 
  • Stomach upset
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Aches and pains 
  • Frequent illnesses
  • Stiffness in the neck or jaw
  • Unplanned changes in weight
  • Difficulty sleeping or oversleeping
  • Use of substances such as alcohol or drugs to relax

Over time, chronic stress can cause your hormonal and neuronal systems to continue functioning in overdrive even though you’re not in danger. This can cause or exacerbate several health conditions, such as:

Furthermore, a 2017 study notes that chronic stress can cause the brain to atrophy and decrease in size, which can affect memory and cognitive abilities.

Benefits of Being Less Stressed

These are some of the benefits of being less stressed:

  • Not feeling tense and anxious all the time
  • Being in a better mood
  • Getting better sleep
  • Having more control over your weight
  • Getting along better with family members, friends, and colleagues
  • Feeling more calm, collected, confident, and capable
  • Feeling more in control of your life
  • Feeling happier and more satisfied with your life

9 Ways to Be Less Stressed

These are some strategies that can help you reduce your stress levels, according to Allison Gaffey, PhD, a clinical psychologist at Yale Medicine’s Department of Internal Medicine, who specializes in treating the effects of stress:

  • Identify your stressors: Knowing what factors, situations, and people affect you negatively is critical for changing those dynamics, if possible, and for better managing your stress levels. It may be helpful to keep a journal where you note down your stress triggers and your reactions.
  • Improve your time management skills: Improving your time management skills can help you manage your responsibilities better. Try to plan ahead, prioritize your tasks based on importance, budget time realistically, eliminate distractions, and avoid procrastinating.
  • Get some physical activity: Pick activities you like and try to get between 150 and 300 minutes of exercise every week. Exercising regularly can reduce stress and improve your ability to cope with stressful situations. Physical activity can also boost your mood and help protect against the harmful effects of stress, leading to better overall health outcomes.
  • Spend time with loved ones: Spend time with loved ones and talk to them about the things that are stressing you out. Social connection and interaction can reduce stress, help you feel more connected, improve your mental and physical health, and boost your well-being.
  • Practice relaxation exercises: Relaxation exercises such as meditation can end your anxious spiral of thoughts and help you be more present in the moment.
  • Limit your use of technology: While staying informed can be helpful, constant exposure to negative or stressful news via social media or the television can be upsetting and add to the stress. It may be helpful to limit your television time to 10 minutes per day and only log into your social media accounts periodically.
  • Maintain a healthy routine: Eat a balanced diet and get plenty of sleep. A healthy routine can help reduce stress, whereas factors like an erratic schedule, lack of sleep, and an unhealthy diet can worsen it.
  • Avoid using substances to feel better: Avoid drinking, smoking, vaping, or using illegal drugs to combat stress and feel better. Instead, find hobbies and activities you enjoy doing to help you relax.
  • Seek professional help: If you often feel overwhelmed and have trouble coping, seeing a mental healthcare provider may be helpful. They can help you identify factors that trigger your stress and teach you coping skills to deal with stressors.

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How can I be less stressed at school/work?

    These are some ways to be less stressed at school/work:

    • Break complex tasks into smaller, more manageable parts. Plan out your workflow and set deadlines for each task.
    • Avoid procrastinating and leaving your work for the last minute.
    • Talk to your teacher/supervisor if you’re constantly feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope. They may be able to help reduce your workload or offer support.

  • How can I be less stressed about money?

    These are some ways to be less stressed about money:

    • Take stock of your finances, so you know how much monthly income you have and what your expenses are.
    • Create a budget for yourself, prioritizing your necessary expenditures.
    • Track your expenditures so you know how much you’ve spent and how much leeway you have.
    • Try to invest money every month to earn returns and build your savings.
    • Create a second income stream, if possible.

Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Sanjana Gupta

Sanjana is a health writer and editor. Her work spans various health-related topics, including mental health, fitness, nutrition, and wellness.


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