What Do We Know About How Stress Impacts Emotional Health?

Question: What do we know about how stress impacts emotional health?

Answer: Well, we know that the body responds to stress by producing stress hormones, and that those are adaptive and helpful in the context of acute stresses. The difficulty comes when over time, those stress hormones accumulate -- that we find ourselves in chronic stress. And our first indication that we're under stress really may not come until we begin to experience physical symptoms of stress.

We develop stress-related medical problems -- headaches or irritable bowel syndrome or, on the emotional side it can be noticed first as irritability or agitation. And I think that the issue is that there is a clear relationship between emotional health and stress, but that that relationship is not well known, or not perceived really by the people who are experiencing it themselves.

Sometimes other people will clue us in to the fact that we seem to be under stress, and although we may first deny it, some self examination helps us understand that yes, in fact we're struggling to meet these demands. And some strategies, either to control those stressors on one hand or control our stress response on the other, may be in order.

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