Stress Facts

Stress is your body’s natural reaction to any kind of demand that disrupts life as usual. It can produce physical, mental and emotional symptoms that can affect any part of the body. Learn more about stress ›

Sidetrack Your Stress

If you’re like most Americans, you deal with stress on a daily basis. A recent survey done in 2007 by the American Psychological Association found that stress is a major issue in the US. For example,

  • One-third of Americans are living with extreme stress and almost half (48 percent) believe that their stress level has increased over the past five years

  • Money and work are the leading causes of stress for 75 percent of Americans. This is a dramatic increase over the 59 percent reporting stress in 2006.

  • Almost half of all Americans report that stress has had a negative effect on both their personal and professional lives.

  • Stress causes 54 percent of Americans to fight with people close to them.

  • Many people (up to 77 percent) report having physical symptoms and psychological symptoms related to stress in the last month.

Learn more about sidetracking your stress

Stress Can Pack on Pounds

Some people respond to impending deadlines, financial problems, relationship meltdowns, and other difficulties by eating less. But if you respond to added stress by eating more, you could end up with added pounds.

Fortunately, you can take steps to avoid stress-related weight gain. To begin, consider which of the following behaviors you’re prone to, and then take steps to counteract your usual behavior, says the Weight-control Information Network.

Behavior: You don’t have time to prepare healthy meals.

If having a lot to do means less time to shop for fresh fruits and vegetables and other healthy ingredients, you may be more likely to grab fast food or order high-calorie, high-fat takeout meals.

Learn how stress can pack on pounds

Stress Can Increase Your Risk of Heart Disease

Stress is a normal part of life. Stress can come from physical causes, such as not getting enough sleep or having an illness. It can come from mental causes, such as not having enough money or death of a loved one, or less dramatic causes, such as everyday obligations and pressures that make you feel that you are not in control.

Your body’s response to stress was designed to protect you, but if it is constantly activated it can harm you. Studies suggest that the high levels of cortisol from chronic stress can increase blood cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure. These are traditional risk factors for heart disease.

Learn how stress can increase your risk of heart disease

Managing Work-Related Stress

Workplace stress is highly personal. Some people thrive in fast-paced jobs (think emergency room nurses, police officers and air-traffic controllers) where making a mistake can put people’s lives at stake.

But just because the rest of us wouldn’t last a day in such high-pressure environments doesn’t mean our jobs are less stressful. Short deadlines, endless paperwork, the occasional irate customer, and meetings that drag on for hours, putting us even further behind, all can cause stress.

In other words, it’s not the job that creates stress, it’s the way a person responds to the urgencies and demands of each workplace environment that makes him or her stressed or energized.

Learn more about work-related stress

Relaxation Techniques That Really Work

Everyone experiences stress and its effects. Short-term effects of stress include headaches, shallow breathing, difficulty sleeping, anxiety, and upset stomach. Long-term chronic stress can increase the risk for heart disease, back pain, depression, persistent muscle aches and pains, and a weakened immune system, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

Chronic stress can affect your emotions and behavior by making you irritable, impatient, less enthusiastic about your job, and even depressed.

To keep stress at a minimum and reduce its effects on your life, you need to find and practice healthy ways to manage it, advises the American Academy of Family Physicians. Try the following techniques to see what works best for you.

Learn more about relaxation techniques that really work

Using Yoga to Relieve Stress

To combat stress, many people turn to meditation or other mental stress reduction tools. But stress also creates physical response in the body and, as such, can be managed with exercise—in particular, with yoga.

"Stress sends the entire physical system into overdrive," says Garrett Sarley, president and CEO of the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health in Lenox, Mass. "The muscles tense, the heart beats faster, breathing patterns change, and if the cause of stress isn't discontinued, the body secretes more hormones that increase blood sugar levels, raising blood pressure. Yoga is one of the few stress-relief tools that has a positive effect on all the body systems involved."

Learn more about using yoga to relieve stress

Your Guide to Stress

Take a Personalized Health Test