Stress does not always stem from negative life experiences. While navigating work targets, experiencing job loss, or handling relationship issues are common stress triggers; planning a wedding, or hosting a party can also induce stress.

Often, stressors in life are beyond a person's control. During this Stress Awareness Month, an expert explains the negative consequences of stress and techniques to manage this silent killer.

"Stress isn't 'just stress' stress can kill us," cautions certified counselor, Jessica Eiseman, Owner & Clinical Director, of Ajana Therapy & Clinical Services in Houston, Texas.

"Stress can cause numerous issues for us physically, emotionally, cognitively, and behaviorally. Even 'good' stress, like buying a house, getting a promotion, getting married or having a baby, can cause symptoms in someone," Eiseman told Medical Daily.

Signs of Stress:

According to Eiseman, stress can lead to various physical symptoms, including headaches, muscle tension, fatigue, sleep disturbances, digestive issues, increased heart rate, sweating, chills, and breathing difficulties. Emotional symptoms such as anxiety, irritability, mood swings, feeling overwhelmed, sadness, and difficulty relaxing are also common.

Additionally, cognitive symptoms may arise, such as racing thoughts, trouble concentrating, memory problems, and persistent worrying. Furthermore, behavioral symptoms like changes in appetite, increased substance use, social withdrawal, and difficulty completing tasks can also be observed in individuals experiencing stress.

Impact of stress:

In some cases, stress can have a positive impact as it could help people work harder, and improve their efficiency and productivity to achieve their targets. However, some stressors can last for a prolonged time and have a lasting impact on an individual's physical and mental well-being.

"Prolonged stress can lead to various physical health issues, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, weakened immune system, digestive problems, and even chronic pain conditions. It can impair cognitive function, leading to difficulties with memory, concentration, decision-making, and problem-solving. It may also interfere with creativity and the ability to think clearly," Eiseman said.

People who have existing mental conditions such as anxiety and depression may experience exacerbated symptoms and prolonged stress can contribute to the development of new mental health issues, Eiseman explained.

"Prolonged stress may lead to burnout, characterized by emotional exhaustion, cynicism, and decreased effectiveness. It can impact a person's ability to self-regulate their emotions, which can impact and strain interpersonal relationships. Stress can also impact the way we view ourselves, and erode self-esteem and self-confidence, leading to negative self-talk, feelings of worthlessness, and a distorted self-image. This can contribute to feelings of inadequacy and increase vulnerability to mental health issues like depression," she added.

Tips to Manage Stress:

The first step toward managing a stressor is self-care. According to Eiseman, the concept of radical self-care extends beyond grand gestures like traveling or spending money on massages or manicures. Although these are valuable practices, including small regular moments for yourself throughout the day can offer better help for consistent stress management.

"Consider dedicating just 5 minutes to listening to a relaxing audio exercise, or taking a brief 10-minute stroll outside during your work break. You might also find relief by minimizing social media exposure or curating your feed to reduce stress-inducing content. Establishing a bedtime routine, cultivating healthy eating habits, and integrating regular movement into your daily routine are also vital components of self-care. By prioritizing these small acts of self-nurturing, you can foster a more sustainable approach to stress management and overall well-being," Eiseman said.

Setting up healthy boundaries and mastering the art of saying no to extra commitments is the next step. It also includes reducing time with people who deplete your energy during stressful times.

"If certain individuals consistently deplete your energy rather than replenish it, consider reducing the time you spend with them, especially during stressful periods. Take a moment to assess your capacity to support others and discern whether they uplift or drain your energy. Remember, it's perfectly acceptable to politely decline and reschedule if you find yourself stretched thin. Your well-being deserves priority," Eiseman explained.

Another important step is to effectively manage time. This can be put into practice by prioritizing tasks, breaking them down into manageable steps, and setting realistic deadlines. "Everything is important, but what absolutely needs to be done in this hour, in this day, in this week. Effective time management reduces feelings of being overwhelmed," Eiseman said.

While going through stress, an important thing to remember is to seek help when needed. Sometimes, reaching out to friends, and family for emotional support and guidance might help you calm down.

"Talking about stressors can provide perspective and alleviate feelings of isolation. If stress becomes overwhelming or interferes significantly with daily functioning, consider seeking help from a mental health professional who can provide support and strategies tailored to individual needs," Eiseman said, adding: "Remember, managing stress is a continuous process, and it's essential to prioritize self-care and seek support when needed. "