Stress and health

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Some stress is normal but too much can be harmful. Learn about how too much stress can impact your health.

Normal stress vs. too much stress

Life is stressful. Our lives are busy with school, work, friends, extra-curricular activities and more, and we can feel like we are just rushing from one event to another. We might often feel like we don’t have enough time to do the things we want to do and spend time with the people we want to see.

Stress, in the right amounts, can be helpful. It can motivate us to study for an upcoming test or make sure that we get to school on time. But too much stress can make it harder to sleep, get things done and think clearly. This can cause trouble for us in our daily lives.

Dealing with difficult moments

Fight, flight or freeze mode

Our bodies have a built-in stress response system designed to signal danger and keep us alive. When that stress response system is triggered, we go into fight, flight or freeze mode. Once in this mode:

  • our heart beats faster
  • our muscles become tense
  • our breathing speeds up
  • our digestive system slows down
  • our appetites can change
  • we are on ‘high alert’ as we focus on the threat or fear

These changes are all designed to give our bodies extra strength and speed either to confront a threat or run away from it.

The strength of the stress response is directly related to the amount of danger that someone believes they are in, not the actual amount of danger. The response is helpful in real life-or-death situations, but it can also occur – and be less helpful – in everyday situations (such as doing an upcoming test or meeting new people) if someone finds these triggers more threatening or dangerous than they really are.

If your body’s stress response system is triggered often enough by everyday events, you might be in a chronic state of stress. This can harm your overall health and wellbeing.

But there are things you can do to help boost your coping skills and become more resilient in the face of triggers. Resilience doesn’t mean that nothing bothers you, just that you can cope with difficulties and move on from them sooner than later without long-term consequences.

Watch the animation below if you feel overwhelmed and you want to find a moment of peace or quiet.

A moment of peace

How to use: This video explains how to find some calm and peace in difficult moments. It can help you find a sense of peace when your world seems overwhelming or when things are getting you down. After the video, pause to think about the moments of peace that you can pull from your own experience right now.

Try these meditations for times when you would like to bring yourself back into the present moment or when you're looking for positivity.

Equal breathingaudio

How to use: This guided audio meditation helps you balance your in-breath and your out-breath. Use this meditation when you’d like to refocus or bring yourself back to the present moment. Follow along with the meditation to match your in-breath to your out-breath and slowly increase the length of each. If you feel out of breath or dizzy during this meditation, pause and breathe comfortably until you feel better.

Circle of gratitudeaudio

How to use: This is a mindfulness practice that offers help with self-talk. It will help you notice nice things about yourself or others. You can do this practice anytime, on your own or with family or friends.

Tree meditationaudio

How to use: This mindfulness practice helps you take care of yourself when you feel out of control. When things feel chaotic, you can practice this meditation while sitting, standing, lying or even walking.

Last updated: March 22nd 2019