If people gave years nicknames the way they do graduate high-school seniors, they’d indubitably dub 2020 Most Likely to Cause Stress. If you feel like an old David Bowie tune all day, every day, you are far from alone.
You might know that undue pressure causes a host of physical ills, from weight gain to high blood pressure. It can also do a number on your mindset. Here are eight ways that stress impacts your mental health and how you can cope during challenging times.
1. It Destroys Your Concentration
Did you remember to unplug your straightening iron or lock your front door? Even if you handle such matters by rote when waters remain calm, when the waves start kicking, it’s natural to forget seemingly routine details and fly into a panic.
When you feel stressed, too many details demand your attention, scattering your focus to the wind. However, research from the University of Waterloo suggests that 10 minutes of mindfulness meditation can help you regain your concentration.
2. It Makes Crisis Management More Challenging
What do you do when you emerge from Buy, Buy Baby and discover that you no longer have a vehicle when you go to load the trunk? If you are under excessive stress already, you could overlook vital details such as photographing where you last saw your car after dialing 911.
You also need to document vehicle damage for your insurer if you become the victim of a smash-and-grab. Overlooking these details can result in denying or lowballing your claim, leaving you stuck holding the bill.
3. It Creates Problems at Work
If you have a job right now, you know how fortunate you are. You don’t want to let the stress of what could happen taint your present livelihood.
If you are feeling tense because you suspect that you might lose your job, ask your employer how secure your position is. Prepare yourself — you might not like the answer you hear, but it’s better than stumbling along in the dark. Then, dust off your resume and up your networking game if your role is on shaky ground.
4. It Promotes Anxiety
When undue stress goes from a temporary situation to a chronic problem, it can graduate from feeling out of sorts to a severe mental disorder. You can develop one of several forms of anxiety that can hinder your ability to function.
Generalized anxiety disorder can cause symptoms such as sleeplessness, changes in appetite and irritability. You might find yourself lashing out at those you love or gaining or losing weight. Worse, chronic stress can rewire your brain to keep your blood pressure high, upping your heart disease risk.
5. It Worsens Symptoms of Other Disorders
The most insidious effect of undue stress involves the vicious spiral it creates when it exacerbates symptoms of existing disorders. Many scientists agree that broken heart syndrome is real — it’s why when one spouse dies after decades of marriage, the other sometimes follows. The shock and trauma could bring on a heart attack if you are prone to cardiovascular problems.
Anxiety can feed off itself like a snake biting into its tail. You toss and turn all night with a racing mind. The lack of shuteye makes you more irritable and prone to accidents and mistakes the next day — when these events occur, they amp up your stress levels more.
Try creating a stress-busting bedtime routine. Relax in a hot bath while reading a novel or practice some gentle yoga stretches. Play soothing music, and try scenting your pillow with lavender essential oil.
6. It Can Destroy Relationships
Remember that part about growing snippy? Too much stress can do more than spur a temporary low mood. It can prompt negative behavioral patterns like exploding at your partner — nobody deserves to bear the brunt of such attacks.
When the one you love grows sufficiently resentful of your actions, they may well pack their bags. Such circumstances further increase your stress load — separation and divorce are no picnic. Try to prevent heartbreak by speaking openly about your overwhelm when you feel calm and working together toward an acceptable solution to problems.
7. It Makes You Feel Lonely
When stress segues into anxiety, you might seek to isolate yourself. However, try to fight the urge to do so — loneliness can make you feel tenser because you perceive you face the world alone.
How can you fight the isolation you feel when distressed? Force yourself to phone an understanding friend or relative. If that doesn’t seem possible, you can reach a toll-free mental health hotline, such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness at 1-800-950-6264.
8. It Can Lead to Suicide
Between 2006 and 2016, suicide rates in the U.S. increased at 2% per year — the cumulative impact staggers the mind. Now, with a pandemic and tremendous job losses facing the nation, experts anticipate even higher numbers.
If you feel like harming yourself, please reach out to the National Suicide Hotline. If you have a disorder that makes phone conversations problematic, you can reach the crisis text line by sending “home” to 741741. Please see the help you need — there is an answer to your problems, but you need to give yourself time to find it.
Stress Adversely Impacts Your Mental Health — Please Use Positive Coping Skills
Stress can adversely affect your mental health with tragic results. Use the tips above to find calm and recognize when to seek help.