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Top 10 Things To Know About The Effects of Stress

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Updated May 27, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

While there's a wealth of information available about the effects of stress, it can be stressful trying to wade through it all! Here are 10 important facts about the effects of stress that can go a long way in helping you understand stress and its role in your life. This can help you quickly and easily learn more about the effects of stress and find some effective stress management techniques to incorporate into your life right now.

1. The Wrong Attitude Significantly Increases Your Stress Level

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We all experience stress, but the pessimists, perfectionists, and those with 'type A' personalities (to name a few) greatly increase the level of stress they experience in a given event, and even bring more stressful events into their lives with their self sabotage thought and behavior patterns. If you have some of these tendencies, you can significantly reduce the level of stress you experience with these resources on stress and self sabotage.

2. Some Types of Stress Can Be Beneficial

A certain type of stress, known as 'eustress,' is actually necessary and beneficial for a balanced and exciting life. Eustress is the type of stress you experience when you're riding a roller-coaster (if you enjoy fast rides), are playing a fun game, or are falling in love. Eustress makes us feel vital and alive. (Chronic stress, however, is another story!) If you're interested in learning more about the different types of stress and how they affect your health, read this article on stress and health.

3. You Can Stop Your Stress Reaction Right Now

When you experience stress, all manner of physiological changes occur to get you in top physical shape to fight or run. Unfortunately, if you don't calm yourself down relatively quickly, you could remain in this altered state for too long, and it could take a toll on your health. Practicing stress relievers like breathing exercises and meditation can calm you down quickly, returning your body to normal. This doesn't necessarily solve the challenges that triggered your stress response in the first place, but it does help you to move into a frame of mind where you are better able to handle these challenges with a clear head. Read more on how to calm down quickly.

4. Even Small Amounts of Stress Can Affect Your Health

You may be aware that months spent in a stressful life situation can leave you vulnerable to illness, but did you know that relatively short periods of stress can also compromise your immune system, elevating your risk of illness? Sadly, it's true. Learn more about the ways that stress, especially job stress, can impact your health.

5. The Wrong Attitude Can Make You Sick

Negative thought patterns and emotional stress can lead to psychosomatic illness, a condition that's caused at least in part by stress, but has physical symptoms that need to be treated as any other illness does. If you're concerned about your thoughts and emotions taking a physical toll, read more on psychosomatic illness and staying healthy.

6. You Can Prevent A Significant Amount Of Stress In Your Life From Occurring

Some stress is inevitable, but you can structure your life in ways that buffer you from stress and stressful events. For example, maintaining a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, and having at least a few close friendships are all important ways to relieve stress and stay healthy. Find more ways to relieve daily stress in your life, and prevent some of your stress from ever occurring!

7. Stress Can Age You Prematurely in Many Ways

It may be surprising, but stress can be more of a factor in determining your physical age than the number of candles you blow out each year. Stress actually speeds up wear and tear on many, many areas of your body and at all levels, inducing many of the changes we refer to when we talk about 'aging'. Read more about recent research on this here.

8. Not Everyone Experiences Stress In The Same Way

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Certain inborn personality traits and learned thought patterns can cause two people who live through the same event to experience it very differently, with one person finding it extremely stressful and the other finding it only mildly stressful or not at all. Some of these traits you can't change, but others you can alter to a large degree. Read more about mental traits contributing to burnout and stress, and find resources for altering your experience of stress.

9. Some 'Stress Relievers' Actually Cause More Stress

Most of us have a few less-than-healthy ways of dealing with stress. Unfortunately, most of these 'bad habits' that feel so good at the time can really cause much more stress in the long run. If you smoke, drink in excess, spend too much, or handle stress in a way you know may not be good for you, find resources for understanding how you're affecting your stress levels right now, and find resources for healthier coping.

10. By Imagining Your Stress Gone, It Can Be

Certain mental stress relief techniques, such as affirmations, guided imagery and visualizations, involve imagining that your stress is gone. And they work! Learn more about these and other mental stress relievers, and see which one works best for you.

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