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15 Ways on how to avoid stress

Reading time: 19 mins
15 Ways on how to avoid stress

Stress is how we react to anything from the environment that upsets us. It’s a normal reaction. Stress keeps us alert and has been one of the most crucial mechanisms for the survival of humankind, as it allows people to respond to and adapt to different circumstances. Short-term stress is normal, but persistent or long-term stress is not. Chronic stress affects physical, mental, and emotional health and well-being. It increases the risk of various health conditions. For that reason, it’s important to learn how to avoid or manage stress. Different ways to avoid stress are listed below:

  • Drink and eat to improve your health
  • Regular exercise
  • Stop using items containing nicotine and cigarettes
  • Learn and use relaxing techniques
  • Decrease the sources of stress
  • Examine your principles and adhere to them
  • Make a stand
  • Set reasonable expectations and goals
  • Take breaks when needed
  • Find social assistance
  • Socialize with other people
  • Obtain enough rest
  • Reduce screen and phone time
  • Practice mindfulness
  • Spend time in nature

1. Drink and eat to improve your health

Start by evaluating current eating patterns. It’s a good idea to keep a food journal. Read the inputs of all foods and beverages to identify strengths and weaknesses. In this case, weakness refers to unhealthy foods and beverages that are present in the diet. Making sure to eat a well-balanced diet rich in healthy fats, proteins, vitamins, and minerals improves overall health and also makes a person more resistant to stress.

After all, the foods we eat affect every aspect of our health, including mental health and well-being. A study from Clinical Nutrition confirmed that people who are stressed out and neurotic have a poorer quality of diet than their counterparts who are not. Eating ultra-processed foods and products abundant in added sugar is linked to higher stress levels.

At the same time, chronic stress is associated with unhealthy food choices. A person who is under a great deal of stress is more likely to reach for an unhealthy item than vegetables, for example.

Instead of heavily processed and refined foods, make sure to enrich your diet with whole foods such as fruits and vegetables, fish, beans, nuts, and seeds. They can help improve resilience to stress.

Dietary modification is one of the most important strategies to avoid stress, but it can be more challenging than some others. The biggest obstacle for many people is an abrupt change in eating patterns that is so different from their current habits. People who find sudden changes overwhelming may want to start small. Make one tweak to your diet and introduce the next one once you adapt to it e.g. in a week or 10 days.

2. Regular exercise

Increase physical activity levels by exercising at least 30 minutes a day or 150 minutes per week at moderate intensity. According to the CDC, it’s also necessary to dedicate two days of the week to muscle-strengthening exercises. In other words, both cardio and strength training is necessary for optimal results. Besides regular exercise, it’s also important to increase physical activity levels in general. Be less sedentary, and move more.

The biggest obstacle for many people is sticking to the workout regimen. One way to solve that problem is to choose activities that you enjoy. Additionally, exercising with friends or family is useful because people can motivate one another to keep going. Any activity a person chooses is better than no activity. Walking is a great way to stay active and reduce stress; especially for beginners.

Like diet changes, regular exercise is an essential strategy for stress relief but it can be challenging.

The importance of exercise for stress management and prevention has been confirmed by science. Frontiers in Psychology published a study that found that two days of aerobic exercise a week can significantly lower stress levels and depression.

Studies also confirm that regular exercise improves mood and helps reduce stress, whereas a sedentary lifestyle worsens mood and leads to stress. What makes physical activity one of the best ways to reduce stress is that it’s important for physical and psychological well-being alike. It promotes the release of feel-good chemicals that help improve mood.

3. Stop using items containing nicotine and cigarettes

Make a firm decision to quit smoking and use other products that are based on nicotine. Compared to other strategies, this one is more difficult because smoking is a form of addiction. That’s exactly the main obstacle for most people. As they quit smoking, withdrawal symptoms such as strong cravings lower their motivation to continue. That’s why many people start smoking again. Successful cessation is possible with strong willpower and a support system. It also helps to join support groups and connect with people who are trying to do the same.

Many people turn to cigarettes to relieve stress, but this doesn’t work for chronic stress. Nicotine worsens stress because people begin to go through withdrawal when they don’t have the cigarette when the body “feels like it”.

The good news is that quitting smoking improves physical health and boosts mental health by alleviating symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression. As it stabilizes a person’s mental health, they become more resilient to threats. In other words, it can help improve our stress response.

This strategy is important because smoking has a negative impact on health, meaning it can worsen stress and make a person more susceptible to mood problems.

4. Learn and use relaxing techniques

Choose a relaxing technique to learn and practice regularly to avoid or manage stress. A good example is deep breathing. The main goal of deep breathing is to focus the awareness on each breath, every inhale and exhale, making them slower and deeper. Inhale through the nose allowing lungs to expand and stomach to rise. Exhale slowly through the mouth. This slows the heart rate and promotes relaxation.

Other relaxing techniques worth learning include Tai Chi, visualization, and yoga, just to name a few.

The biggest obstacle here is having to learn something a person has never tried before. But keep in mind this isn’t about perfection. Relaxing techniques aren’t complicated. They’re simple strategies that everyone can learn when dedicating a few minutes every day to regular practice. The most important thing is to be motivated to learn a skill that will help lower stress.

The good news is that this strategy is easier than many others due to the freedom to choose any technique a person sees fit or is interested in.

The importance of deep breathing and other relaxing techniques is that they work to calm the nervous system. By doing so, they promote a sense of calm and help relieve stress. With regular practice, these techniques also serve in stress prevention. Plus, they are easy to implement into everyone’s lifestyle. These techniques don’t require special equipment or money investments. People can practice them in the comfort of their homes, at work, or somewhere else.

Relaxing techniques are among the best ways to reduce or prevent stress because they decrease our focus on the source of stress and prepare us to respond to it in a healthier manner.

5. Decrease the sources of stress

In order to decrease the sources of stress, it’s necessary to identify them. The best way to identify stress triggers is to answer the question, “What makes you feel tense, angry, irritable, or worried?” Anything that makes a person feel that way is the source or trigger of stress. Some people may have one trigger, whereas others have more of them.

Yet another way to identify the trigger of stress, unless it’s already familiar, is to keep a journal or log of all times when a person is feeling stressed out. Do it for a week or two. Then, read all the inputs. Some situations stand out. What are they? Situations that are associated with episodes of stress are the triggers.

Once the sources of stress are identified, it is necessary to tackle them. One thing a person can do is reduce exposure to the sources of stress. Another thing is to manage the influence of the stressor on mental health. In other words, a person can handle triggers in a way it doesn’t induce stress or lessen their impact. The exact action depends on the trigger, but training the mind to be more resilient does the trick. That’s why it’s useful to follow the tips from this post.

This strategy is easier than many others on the list because it only requires a proactive approach and correct identification of the trigger. Its importance lies in the fact it’s impossible to manage or prevent stress without knowing the trigger and reducing exposure to it. The main benefit of this technique is that it makes other strategies a lot more effective.

What makes this tip one of the best stress relief techniques is that it teaches us to identify sources of stress correctly and allows us to combat negative stimuli promptly.

6. Examine your principles and adhere to them

Take a few moments to think about relationships with other people including romantic relationships, friendships, family life, and work. Are any of these relationships associated with a great deal of stress? Do people from those specific aspects of life do something that increases your stress levels? If so, it’s time to examine your principles, reaffirm them, and adhere to them religiously by creating boundaries and learning to say “no.”

Principles are boundaries that people firmly hold and openly communicate with others. The obstacle here is that people may be afraid to say no, thinking someone will take it the wrong way. As long as boundaries are openly communicated with others, there is no reason to be afraid. Learning to say no and adhering to the principles or boundaries helps prevent stress that people would cause by crossing them.

The importance of this technique lies in the fact that sources of stress are usually under our control. Putting too much on the plate can increase stress levels and limit the time a person dedicates to self-care. Taking control of personal life helps lower stress and protect one’s mental health.

For that reason, it’s necessary to say “no” more often; it protects a person’s mental well-being.

While more challenging than some other tips on this list, this strategy is one of the best for stress reduction as it allows a person to manage stressors that they can actually control.

7. Make a stand

Making a stand goes hand in hand with examining principles and adhering to them. When a person makes a stand it means they hold their ground and stick to their decisions. The process is simple; learn to say no, stay true to your words, learn when to leave the situation, and constantly remind yourself that you deserve to be treated with respect.

Compared to other techniques, this strategy isn’t harder. But it can be a challenge to make a stand for a person who has never done it before. The most important thing is to believe in oneself and firmly stand for values close to them.

The greatest importance of this strategy is that it makes a person more determined and resilient, which translates to stronger mental health and a lower risk of stress. Yet another benefit is that it helps a person improve their overall quality of life. Making a stand helps improve one’s productivity at work, relationships with other people, and more.

Making a stand serves as one of the best techniques for stress relief because, like the strategy above, it helps people manage stress triggers that are in their control.

8. Set reasonable expectations and goals

In order to set reasonable expectations and goals, it’s important to make sure they are realistic and measurable. Divide bigger goals and expectations into smaller, easy-to-achieve milestones. Each time one milestone is completed, the motivation to conquer the next one increases.

The main obstacle is the poor definition of expectations and goals. They shouldn’t be vague. Make sure they are precise and clearly defined.

Setting goals is an easier strategy than others on this list, primarily because everyone has at least one goal in life. The point here is to go one step further and make sure it’s realistic and truly enriches a person’s life.

The right goals and a plan to reach them may help a person feel greater happiness and fulfillment while lowering stress levels. What makes this strategy important is that expectations and goals create a structure that enables a person to visualize their success and thereby mitigate stress. Benefits of this strategy include the freedom to set goals you want, as long as they are reasonable or realistic. Yet another benefit of this technique is its simplicity; everyone can apply it to their lifestyle.

Setting goals and expectations is an important stress relief technique, one of the best, primarily because it allows people tighter control and improves their decision-making and problem-solving skills.

9. Take breaks when needed

Taking breaks involves listening to the body or mind. For example, when studying or working on an assignment, it’s useful to have frequent breaks. A 10-minute break can do wonders for one’s psyche. The same applies to physical workouts – take breaks at regular intervals.

The main obstacle is the belief that taking breaks leads to impaired productivity. That’s why they take on more responsibilities than they can handle. The opposite is true, however. Frequent breaks can boost productivity and make it easier to get the job done.

This strategy is one of the easiest on this list. Taking breaks is an important way to recover from stress or avoid it. As a result, it improves performance by restoring energy and mental resources, reducing fatigue, and promoting calmness. The benefits of taking breaks also include less pressure, a better quality of sleep, and a stronger mindset.

Additionally, taking breaks improves mood and restores a person’s motivation. In other words, this strategy is one of the best because it has a positive impact on both physical and mental health and well-being.

10. Find social assistance

There are many ways to find social assistance, but the easiest thing a person can do is to join support groups. Nowadays, there are support groups for different causes and problems, stress included. The main goal here is to get social support to avoid or manage stress.

The obstacle is one’s reluctance to share their experience with stress. Social assistance is all about receiving help and encouragement while sharing experiences that can help others as well.

The importance of social assistance lies in the fact it acts as a buffer against stressful situations. It can help stop a person from reacting negatively to a stressful situation by redefining it as not stressful. Social assistance can also decrease the power a stressful situation has over a person.

The benefits of social assistance include calming effect and reduction of physiological symptoms of stress. Additionally, social assistance generates a sense of belonging, which also helps lower stress and improve mental health and well-being. This kind of assistance helps a person overcome practical problems that may be causing stress and also protects against depression.

Social assistance is one of the best strategies for stress relief because it works through multiple mechanisms to improve physical and mental resilience, thereby lowering stress levels.

11. Socialize with other people

Socializing with other people is a simple process. There are many things a person can do including spending more time with friends, family, and loved ones, volunteering, hosting an event, signing up for a class, traveling, and more. It’s important to be friendly and outgoing.

The biggest obstacle is being reluctant to socialize, especially if a person is an introvert. However, socializing is one of the easiest strategies on this list and an effective approach to relieving or preventing stress.

What makes socializing important is that it reduces the sense of loneliness while promoting feelings of security, safety, enjoyment, and belonging. Socialization also has a positive effect on hormone levels. It increases levels of oxytocin, a hormone that reduces anxiety and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system calming down responses.

The benefits of socializing include a confidence boost, an energy boost, and better focus, and concentration. Spending time with other people teaches a person to stop focusing on triggers of stress, thereby reducing their impact on someone’s mental health.

Socializing with other people is one of the best strategies to lower stress because it’s fun and effective. Having a richer social life can improve immune, cardiovascular, and neuroendocrine function. At the same time, it helps prevent or manage anxiety and depression.

12. Obtain enough rest

Obtaining enough rest is a process that includes a regular sleep schedule, a well-balanced diet, creating a calming environment, managing worries, and combining regular exercise with proper rest afterward.

A potential obstacle here is the belief that a person doesn’t need rest. Everyone does. As one of the simplest techniques on this list, getting enough rest is important because it lowers levels of the stress hormone cortisol. It also restores balance in the body’s systems. The most significant benefit of getting enough rest is its easy implementation into one’s lifestyle.

Obtaining enough rest calms and restores the body, improves concentration, sharpens judgment and decision-making, and regulates mood. That’s why it’s one of the best techniques for stress management. With enough rest, people become better at solving problems and learn to cope with the triggers of stress more effectively.

13. Reduce screen and phone time

Reducing screen and phone time is easier than it seems. Start by checking the apps to see how much time you spend using them and also keep track of how much time is spent watching TV. Make sure to take regular breaks, stretch, and move the TV out of the bedroom. Ideally, people should avoid watching TV in bed as it can prevent them from getting enough sleep. Determine how much screen and phone time is okay for you and stick to it.

The obstacle here is fear of missing out, which happens when a person believes they’re going to miss something important. As a result, they spend a great deal of time checking for updates. To overcome this obstacle, it’s useful to train oneself to know everything on TV or phone will be there once you log in again, and you’re not actually missing out on anything.

The importance of this strategy stems from the fact that smartphone use is associated with elevated levels of stress and mental health disorders. Generally speaking, spending too much time in front of the screen is linked to poorer mental health and impaired sleep.

Reducing screen time is a bit harder than other strategies in this post, but it can induce all the positive emotions in people. That’s why it’s among the best stress relief methods.

This practice enhances one’s focus so that they stop concentrating on the trigger of stress. That way, the stress trigger loses its power. It doesn’t affect the person at such a high intensity to cause physical symptoms of stress.

14. Practice mindfulness

Practicing mindfulness is a bit more challenging than other strategies on this list. There are many ways to increase mindfulness, including meditation, living in the moment, paying attention, focusing on breathing, and accepting oneself and others. Mindfulness is all about being present at the moment and refusing to pay attention to thoughts that come along.

Another way to practice mindfulness is through mindfulness therapy. Essentially, mindfulness therapy focuses on learning how to be more aware of one’s emotions, feelings, thoughts, and surroundings. In the process, the person’s automatic response lowers.

The obstacle to practicing mindfulness is that it takes a lot of time and effort, which can be stressful for people who have never done it before. A good thing to remember here is that practicing mindfulness is not a competition and everyone makes progress at their own pace. Patience and motivation are important here.

The importance of practicing mindfulness stems from various studies that have confirmed its effectiveness. A study from Clinical Psychology Review confirmed that mindfulness exhibits positive effects on psychological health by increasing subjective well-being, lowering psychological symptoms and emotional reactivity, and improving behavioral regulation.

Practices such as meditation may boost a person’s mood and lower symptoms of stress and anxiety. Meditation also reduces physiological markers of stress, according to a paper from the Journal of Psychiatric Research. The benefits of practicing mindfulness revolve around less intense responses to stressful stimuli. What makes this technique one of the best for stress relief is its versatility. There are many ways a person can be mindful. The trick is to find the strategy that works for you best.

15. Spend time in nature

Dedicate a few hours every day or week to spending more time in nature. This can involve simple walks, hiking, trekking, or picnics. There are no obstacles to spending time in nature other than forgetting to reduce screen time. A person can never truly appreciate nature without limiting screen time.

This is one of the easiest tips to implement for stress relief or prevention. It’s simple to follow and doesn’t require drastic changes in one’s life.

Evidence confirms that spending time in green spaces such as forests and parks is a great way to manage stress. Even spending as little as 10 minutes in nature can improve physiological and psychological well-being, including perceived stress.

Benefits of spending time in nature include confidence boost, energy boost, calmness, weight loss, and greater resilience to stress triggers.

What makes it one of the best strategies for stress relief is its simplicity alongside the serenity and peace that people experience when spending time in the natural environment.

What is stress?

black letters spelling "stress"

Stress is a physiological or psychological response to internal or external stressors. The American Psychological Association explains that stress is a normal reaction to negative stimuli from the environment. It’s how we react to anything that causes physical, emotional, or psychological strain. Although a normal reaction, stress can turn into a huge problem and upset a person’s day-to-day functioning. Chronic stress is a common problem and it’s defined as a prolonged and constant tension that lasts over a month.

Stress involves multiple systems ranging from metabolism to muscles and memory. Humans need some stress as it prepares us to respond to challenges and uncertainties. It’s part of our fight-or-flight response. However, when not managed properly, stress is a source of major problems.

According to the American Institute of Stress, around 55% of Americans are stressed during the day. The global average number of stressed people in 143 countries is 35%. Chronic stress is a common occurrence at work, as 94% of workers report feeling stressed out at their workplace.

Stress is caused when an upsetting or stressful event triggers a cascade of hormones including cortisol and adrenaline, to surge through a person’s body. As a response to increased levels of these hormones, the heart starts beating faster. This leads to increased blood circulation to support the heart’s quick action. Stress hormones also mobilize sugar and fat as fuels that give the body an energy boost. A person’s attention to danger and preparation of muscles for movement also improve. In a nutshell, this is a life-saving response whose effects are short-term, Psychology Today explains.

Chronic stress has a similar mechanism of action. In this case, however, stress isn’t managed properly so it becomes overwhelming to the brain and body. This results in impaired or limited resources to fight that stress, which causes a chain of reactions that result in physical and mental health problems.

Not all cases of chronic stress are the same. There are different types of stress such as emotional, environmental, relationship, and work-related. That said, every type of stress can affect multiple domains of a person’s life. For example, work-related stress can affect a person’s relationship.

Everyone experiences stress at one point or another. Some people may be more susceptible to chronic stress than others, however. Common risk factors for stress include work, facing an uncertain future, loneliness, and even busy traffic.

Poverty or finances, dysfunctional family/marriage, big changes in life, lack of control in situations, overwhelming responsibilities, discrimination, hate, and abuse are all risk factors for stress. Having some type of physical or mental health condition also increases the risk of stress as a person attempts to cope with their illness and faces challenges along the way.

A person’s response to stress is greatly influenced by factors such as genetics and life experiences. The genes that regulate stress response keep people on a relatively stable emotional level. Subtle differences in these genes can lead to an underactive or overactive stress response.

At the same time, strong stress reactions can be traced to experiences such as traumatic events. People who were abused or neglected are more vulnerable to stress than those who were not. The same applies to individuals who have experienced other types of trauma such as accidents, war, and violence, just to name a few.

Moreover, lack of or limited access to medical care or transport can increase the risk of stress as well.

Stress affects every aspect of a person’s life. It can increase the risk or worsen anxiety, depression, headaches, and digestive problems. Other effects of stress include muscle tension and pain, sleep problems, weight gain, and problems with memory and concentration. When left unmanaged, stress can also contribute to heart disease, hypertension, stroke, and heart attack, Mayo Clinic reports.

When it comes to the effects of stress on the body, it affects almost all systems, including musculoskeletal, respiratory, endocrine, cardiovascular, nervous, reproductive, and gastrointestinal.

Additionally, the effects of stress extend to a person’s behavior. Productivity at work or school may suffer as well as the relationship with family, friends, coworkers, and a significant other. Under stress, people tend to make decisions that further jeopardize their quality of life.

Why do I need to avoid stress?

man in stress having headache

You need to avoid stress because it can wreak havoc on physical, psychological, and emotional health and well-being. Evidence shows stress has a major impact on the nervous system, and it has the potential to cause structural changes in different parts of the brain.

For example, chronic stress can contribute to the atrophy of brain mass and reduce weight. These structural changes alter the response to stress and may induce problems with cognition and memory. The amount and intensity of these changes depend on the level and duration of stress.

Not only does chronic stress affect memory, but it also impairs learning. Moreover, it activates physiological systems such as the autonomic nervous system, central neurotransmitter and neuropeptide system, and the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, all of which are associated with data processing. In the long term, this can lead to problems with cognition.

Yet another reason to avoid stress is that it can impair the immune system and make a person more susceptible to various illnesses. Whether acute or chronic, stress exhibits a deleterious effect on the cardiovascular system. For example, it increases heart rate, the strength of contraction, vasodilation in arteries, narrowing of the veins and decreases the excretion of sodium by the kidneys.

Since stress has a major impact on appetite, this is also a valid reason to avoid it or be proactive about its management. Stress acts on the absorption process, intestinal permeability, and secretion of mucus and stomach acid, and it alters the functional physiology of the intestine. Inflammatory diseases such as Crohn’s disease and other ulcerative-based illnesses of the gastrointestinal tract are also linked with stress.

It’s also worth mentioning that stress affects movement in the gastrointestinal tract, thus preventing stomach emptying.

Avoiding stress is also necessary because it can alter the activity of many endocrine processes. Hormonal imbalances pave the way to various health problems.

Besides the above-mentioned reasons to avoid stress, there are many others. For example, it speeds up the aging process, contributes to weight gain, and negatively affects our behavior and performance. Every aspect of our life suffers due to unmanaged stress or stress we don’t avoid.

Where can I go for stress relief?

For stress relief, you can go to a therapist’s office and work on proper techniques to manage it. The therapist teaches patients coping strategies and also helps manage existing mental health issues. This can help prevent mental health disorders in persons who are at a high risk of developing them.

Besides therapy, examples of other places to go for stress relief include nature, the gym, community classes, and beaches. Spending time outdoors is a great way to increase calmness and reduce stress. A gym is an excellent option, as well, because exercise helps us manage stress and feel more in control.

What are the best practices to avoid stress?

Best practices to avoid stress are simple things and tweaks everyone can make in their lifestyle to feel better. Not all practices work for everyone. The key is to experiment, try different things, and make lifestyle adjustments to see what works for you. The best practices to avoid stress are listed below:

  • Self-care
  • Regular exercise
  • Take breaks when necessary
  • Improve work-home balance
  • Socialize
  • Maintain normal routine
  • Volunteer and help others
  • Take a walk
  • Quit smoking
  • Reduce alcohol intake
  • Eat a well-balanced diet
  • Take care of physical and mental health
  • Laugh more
  • Challenge yourself
  • Keep a journal
  • Get enough sleep
  • Read or write
  • Ask for help when you need it

What are the stress reduction techniques?

Stress reduction techniques, also known as relaxation techniques, are simple strategies that reduce symptoms of stress, promote calmness, and help improve quality of life. They help us cope with everyday stress and also make it easier to tackle long-term stress. Stress reduction techniques have many benefits, including slowing heart rate, normalizing blood pressure and breathing rate, improving digestion, improving memory and problem-solving skills, and helping us think more positively. The best stress reduction techniques are listed below:

  • Deep breathing: calms the mind and reduces the concentration of stress hormones in the blood
  • Meditation: produces a deep state of relaxation and a tranquil mind
  • Yoga: reduces stress through gentle stretches and by acting on the autonomic nervous system and its response to stress
  • Tai Chi: promotes serenity through gentle movements
  • Massage: helps improve blood flow and produces a sense of calm
  • Aromatherapy: uses essential oils to calm the nervous system, promote relaxation, and normalize blood pressure
  • Music and art therapy: relies on creating art or making music to promote inner perception and healing
  • Hydrotherapy: uses different water temperatures to increase blood flow and promote calmness
  • Visualization: involves forming mental images to take a visual journey to a calming or peaceful place or situation
  • Progressive muscle relaxation: focusing on slowly tensing and relaxing muscle groups to be more aware of physical sensations and lower stress levels
  • Autogenic relaxation: using visual imagery and body awareness to reduce stress

What are the signs of stress?

woman in stress

Signs of stress are physical, mental, and behavioral. They are listed below:

  • Physical signs: difficulty breathing, panic attacks, sore eyes or blurred eyesight, fatigue, sleep problems, headaches, muscle aches, high blood pressure, chest pain, heartburn or indigestion, diarrhea or constipation, dizziness, sudden weight gain/loss, skin rashes or itchy skin, sweating, changes in the menstrual cycle, worsening of existing physical health problems.
  • Mental signs: irritability, anger, being overwhelmed, anxiousness or nervousness, racing thoughts, depression, sense of dread, inability to feel pleasure, lack of interest, tension, worry, feeling lonely, and worsening of current mental health problems.
  • Behavioral signs: difficulty with decision-making and concentrating, memory problems, being worried constantly, snapping at people (short temper), biting nails, picking skin, teeth grinding or jaw clenching, sexual problems, eating too much/little, spending too much, exercising too much/little, and social isolation.

Is stress a mental disorder?

No, stress is not a mental disorder, but it can increase the risk of mental conditions such as depression and anxiety. Even though stress is not a mental illness, it’s strongly connected to our mental health.

When left unmanaged, stress can cause mental health problems and worsen the existing conditions. Vice versa can also happen! In some people, coping with an existing mental health problem can lead to high levels of stress.

People may also resort to the use of alcohol and recreational drugs to cope with stress, which worsens mental health and causes even more stress.

Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, found that chronic stress predisposes the brain to mental illness. That happens because chronic stress creates long-lasting changes in brain structure. Several mechanisms could play a role here, including changes in brain connectivity. Chronic stress makes stem cells in the hippocampus mature into a different type of non-neuronal cell i.e., glial cell called an oligodendrocyte. The function of oligodendrocytes produces myelin that sheaths nerve cells and helps form synapses, i.e., sites where one cell communicates with another. These cells play a major role in the development of mental health problems. A review from the journal Glia suggested that oligodendrocytes and the myelin they produce are important for maintaining optimal brain function. Dysfunction of oligodendrocytes and myelin abnormalities can contribute to mental disorders such as depression, according to a paper from Frontiers in Psychiatry.