Stress is a normal part of life—from rushing to arrive somewhere on time to more serious, potentially life-changing situations. The good news is our bodies are designed to handle the physical, emotional, and mental responses we have to most stressful events. In fact, some stress may even be useful to improve alertness, provide motivation, and add a burst of energy to optimize our performance, according to researchers at UC Berkeley. But if left unmanaged, constant stress can have negative effects on health and may lead to long-term issues like heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and depression or anxiety.
It’s important to know these signs of stress:
- Feelings of fear, anger, sadness, or frustration
- Headaches and skin irritations
- Upset stomach or reduced appetite
- Difficulty sleeping
- Problems concentrating
- Increased substance use
If stress becomes overwhelming, consider making a few positive life changes to address and potentially remove stressors. First, determine why it’s important to make a change, such as improving mood, sleeping better, protecting your heart, or increasing general wellness.
Next, identify the causes of stress. For some, stress can be caused by uncertainty or lack of control in life, financial insecurity, difficulties in personal relationships, balancing career responsibilities with personal obligations, caring for others, or experiencing a major life disruption.
After understanding the causes of stress, set a few reasonable long-term and short-term goals for positive lifestyle adjustments. This might look like spending more time with loved ones, doing the activities that make you happy more often, getting more rest, eating a healthier diet, and exercising regularly. Start small by doing one new thing each day, like waking up 30 minutes earlier, walking for 15 minutes after lunch, or limiting screen time before bed.
To help manage daily stress in the moment, try these intentional techniques to avoid, re-set, and refresh:
Stop and Breathe: Deep breathing signals the body that it’s okay to relax muscle tension and slow the heart rate, which occurs during the body’s natural “fight or flight” reaction to stress. Moments of quiet mindfulness, like meditation, can also provide an intentional break and calm the mind.
Practice Gratitude: Acknowledging and being grateful for the goodness in life can help boost feelings of optimism, joy, and other positive emotions, inspiring a sense of contentment, happiness, and mental well-being.
Say no: Taking on too much can be a stressor. It’s okay to say “no” to commitments, projects, and stressful situations and to release expectations of perfection from yourself and others.
Digital detox: Limit screen time and consumption of news and social media. Take breaks from devices at meals, during outings with family and friends, and at least a half-hour before bedtime.
Reach Out for Help: While experiencing some stress in life is common, worrying or becoming overwhelmed every day should be discussed with a provider. Working with a behavioral health professional can help to gain control over anxiety and better manage stress.
Sutter Health Plus members may self-refer for an in-person or virtual visit with a participating behavioral health provider through U.S. Behavioral Health Services (USBHPC) by calling 855-202-0984 or visiting liveandworkwell.com. Sign in or browse as a guest with company access code “Sutter” to access a variety of stress management articles, videos, tools, and resources.
For 24/7 support, members have premium access to Sanvello—a top-rated app offering daily mood tracking, coping tools, guided journeys, and clinical techniques to help with symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression—at no cost through USBHPC. Learn more here and download the free Sanvello app from the App Store or Google Play.
Members also have access to a Health Coaching Program for stress management at no cost share. Participants work one-on-one with a trained personal health coach to uncover barriers to self-management, link behavior to personal values, and set goals to make healthier lifestyle choices. To learn more, call the coaching team at 866-961-8513 or visit sutterhealthplus.org/wellness.
There is also a Health and Wellness site available through the Member Portal that provides stress management and health-related resources, a personal health assessment, action plan modules, a video library, a symptom checker, and more.
For detailed information about behavioral health benefits, members can review their Evidence of Coverage and Disclosure Form found on the Member Portal or call Member Services weekdays, 8 a.m. – 7 p.m. at (855) 315-5800.
Sources include Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute of Mental Health, and UC Berkeley News.