Written by Dr. Valentina Quintana MD on
August 12, 2022
Reading Time: 8 minutes

Medically Reviewed by our Medical Affairs Team

Written by Dr. Valentina Quintana MD on:

Do you feel like stress is ruling your life? It’s time to take back control and learn how to manage stress.

This guide will provide you with information about the causes of stress, the symptoms of stress, and remedies for stress relief.

We’ll also discuss brain fog and how it can be caused by stress. If you’re looking for ways to improve your mental health and reduce stress, you’ve come to the right place!

What is stress, exactly?

Stress is your body’s response to any demand placed on it.

The stress response is a natural, physical reaction that happens when you perceive a threat. It’s your body’s way of preparing to deal with the situation.

When you experience stress, your brain triggers the release of hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones prepare your body for action by increasing your heart rate and blood pressure.

They also give you a burst of energy so that you can deal with the stressor. This is known as the “fight-or-flight” response.

In some cases, stress can be helpful. For example, if you’re about to give a presentation, the stress response can help you perform at your best.

But when stress is constant and unmanaged, it can take a toll on your physical and mental health.

Chronic stress has been linked to a variety of health problems, including heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and depression.

3 Main Types of Stress

There are three main types of stress:

  • Acute stress
  • Episodic stress
  • Chronic stress

Acute stress is the most common type of stress. It’s your body’s response to a short-term demand or threat.

Examples of acute stressors include:

  • An upcoming deadline at work
  • A looming exam
  • An argument with a friend

Acute stress is generally manageable and short-lived. But if it’s not managed properly, it can lead to episodic or chronic stress.

Episodic stress frequently occurs, and over time in which, stress affects your mental health. It’s often caused by major life changes or events, such as a death in the family, a divorce, or a job loss.

If you’re constantly dealing with stressors like these, it can take a toll on your health. Episodic stress can lead to chronic stress if it’s not managed properly.

Chronic stress lasts for months or even years, and stress affects both your physical and mental health. It’s often caused by an ongoing stressor, such as a low-paying job, financial problems, or a difficult home life.

What causes stress?

There are many different stressors that can cause stress. Some stressors are external, meaning they come from outside of you. Others are internal, meaning they come from within you.

External stressors

External stressors are things that happen around you or to you. They can include:

  • Your job: Having a high-pressure job or a job that you don’t like can be stressful.
  • Your relationships: Dealing with conflict in your personal relationships can cause stress.
  • Your living situation: If you’re not happy with your living situation, it can add to your stress levels.
  • Major life changes: Changes such as getting married, having a baby, or moving to a new city can be stress-inducing.

Internal stressors

Internal stressors are things that happen inside of you. They can include:

  • Your thoughts: If you’re constantly worrying or ruminating on negative thoughts, it can lead to stress.
  • Your beliefs: If you have negative beliefs about yourself or the world, it can contribute to stress.
  • Your expectations: If you’re constantly setting unrealistic goals for yourself, it can lead to stress.

What are the symptoms of stress?

Stress symptoms vary from person to person. But there are some common signs that you’re experiencing stress, including:

  • Physical symptoms
  • Mental symptoms
  • Emotional symptoms
  • Behavioral symptoms

Physical symptoms of stress

Some of the most common physical stress symptoms include:

  • Headaches
  • Muscle tension or pain
  • Stomach problems
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep problems

Mental symptoms of stress

Some of the common mental signs or symptoms of stress include:

  • Difficulty concentrating or thinking clearly
  • Racing thoughts or a constant loop of worry
  • Memory problems
  • Irritability
  • Brain fog

Emotional symptoms of stress

Some of the most common emotional signs or symptoms of stress include:

  • Anxiety
  • Anger
  • Restlessness
  • Sadness or depression

Behavioral symptoms of stress

Some of the most common behavioral stress symptoms include:

  • Changes in appetite
  • Overeating or undereating
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Procrastination or avoidance
  • Angry outbursts
  • Substance abuse

Can stress make you sick?

Yes, stress can make you sick. When you’re stressed, your body goes into fight-or-flight mode. This is a natural survival mechanism that helps you deal with perceived threats.

Stress can primarily affect your mind and body.

Stress and your physical health

When you’re stressed, your body releases stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones are designed to help you deal with stressful situations.

But if you’re constantly dealing with stress, these hormones can have negative effects on your body. They can contribute to:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Digestive problems
  • Skin conditions
  • Headaches

Stress and your mental health

Chronic stress can also affect your mental health. It can contribute to:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depression
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Dementia

Is it stress or anxiety?

It can be difficult to differentiate between stress and anxiety as both often affect your physical and mental health. But there are some key differences:

  • Stress is a response to an external trigger, while anxiety is a reaction to an internal trigger.
  • Stress is short-term, while anxiety is long-term.
  • Stress can be caused by positive events, while anxiety is always caused by negative events.
  • Stress is often physical, while anxiety is mental.

Stress and anxiety are both common mental health conditions. But it’s important to seek help if you’re struggling to cope with either one.

Can stress cause hair loss?

Studies suggest that stress can lead to hair loss. One of the ways stress can cause hair loss is by impacting the growth cycle of your hair.

When you’re stressed, it can put your hair in a resting phase. This means that new hair doesn’t grow as quickly. And over time, this can lead to thinning or shedding of your hair.

Stress can also cause an inflamed, itchy, and flaky scalp, which can damage your hair follicles and lead to hair loss.

If you’re experiencing stress-related hair loss, it’s important to see a doctor. They can help diagnose the specific causes of your hair loss and recommend treatment options that are right for you.

Can severe stress cause brain fog?

Yes, severe stress can cause brain fog and other mental health problems. When you’re stressed, your body releases stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline.

Studies show that these stress hormones can have negative effects on your brain, including:

  • Impairing your memory
  • Making it difficult to focus
  • Causing racing thoughts
  • Making you feel scattered or disorganized
  • Making you irritable and exhausted

How long does stress brain fog last?

How long stress brain fog lasts depends on the severity of your stress and how well you manage stress and other mental health problems that may be causing it.

If you’re constantly dealing with stress, your brain fog may never go away completely. But if you’re able to reduce your stress levels, you can start to see improvements in your focus, memory, and energy levels.

Tips for Managing Stress

There are a number of things you can do to cope with stress effectively. Studies recommend the following methods:

Prioritize your sleep

Getting enough good quality sleep is crucial for mental health, especially when it comes to reducing your stress levels.

When we sleep, it is the only time that the brain is able to clean itself, consolidate memories, repair damaged brain cells, and prepare you for the next day.

Studies show that people who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to experience overwhelming stress, anxiety, and depression.

If you’re struggling to get enough sleep, there are a few things you can do:

  • Establish a regular sleep schedule
  • Create a bedtime routine
  • Limit your caffeine intake
  • Avoid working in bed
  • Get some exercise
  • Limit your screen time

If you are still having trouble sleeping despite making good lifestyle changes, you might be dealing with a sleep disorder. So, we recommend that you consult a professional to get the treatment that suits you.

Identify your stressors

A stressor is anything that causes stress. And everyone has different stressors.

Research suggests that the best way to manage stress is to identify your stressors and then find ways to avoid or eliminate them.

Some common stressors include:

  • Work-related stress
  • Family stress
  • Financial stress
  • Health-related stress

It’s important to identify your specific stressors so that you can find ways to manage them effectively.

Once you know what’s causing your stress, you can start to make changes in your life to reduce its impact.

For example, if work stress is a major problem for you, there are a few things you can do:

  • Talk to your boss about your workload
  • Delegate tasks to other people
  • Take a break when you feel overwhelmed
  • Set boundaries between work and home
  • Make time for yourself
  • Reduce your screen time

Develop a support network

Having a strong support system is crucial for stress management.

Studies recommend that you develop a network of family, friends, and professionals who you can rely on when you’re feeling stressed.

This support system can provide emotional and practical support that can help reduce your stress levels.

Some ways to develop a strong support system include:

  • Joining a stress management group
  • Meeting with a therapist
  • Attending support groups
  • Talking to friends and family
  • Reaching out to a helpline

Take breaks throughout the day

It’s important to take breaks throughout the day, even if you only have a few minutes.

Research found that taking regular breaks can help reduce stress, improve your mood, and increase your productivity.

Some ways to take a break during the day include:

  • Getting up and moving around every 30 minutes
  • Listening to relaxing music
  • Performing deep breathing exercises
  • Stretching
  • Meditating

Practice meditation or mindfulness

Meditation and mindfulness are stress reduction techniques that can help you focus on the present moment and let go of stressors.

There is a growing body of research that demonstrates the efficacy of these practices for stress management. One study found that mindfulness meditation can help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression.

If you’re interested in trying meditation or mindfulness, there are a few things you can do:

  • Download a meditation app
  • Attend a class
  • Practice at home, starting with deep breathing
  • Find a group to meditate with

Spend time in nature

Spending time in nature has been shown to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression.

One study found that people who spent time in a natural setting for at least 20 minutes had lower levels of stress hormones and inflammation.

So, if you’re looking for ways to reduce your stress levels, we recommend that you spend some time outside.

Some ways to do this include:

  • Take a walk in the park
  • Sit outside in the sun
  • Listen to the sound of nature
  • Plant a garden

Exercise regularly

Exercise is a stress-reduction technique that has a wide range of benefits.

Studies have found that exercise can help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. It can also improve your sleep quality and boost your energy levels.

If you’re looking to add exercise into your stress management routine, there are a few things you can do:

  • Find an activity you enjoy
  • Set realistic goals
  • Start small
  • Find a buddy

Eat healthily

Eating a healthy diet is important for stress management.

Studies have found that eating nutritious foods can help reduce stress and the symptoms of cognitive impairments like brain fog.

Some foods that are particularly helpful for stress management include:

  • Omega-three-rich foods like fish, nuts, and seeds
  • Foods high in antioxidants like berries and dark chocolate
  • Probiotic-rich foods like yogurt and kimchi
  • Herbal teas
  • Water

Avoid drinking excess caffeine and alcohol

Caffeine and alcohol are two substances that can exacerbate stress and anxiety.

Research shows that caffeine can increase stress hormone levels, while alcohol can disrupt sleep and lead to dehydration.

While it’s okay to have these substances in moderation, it’s important to avoid drinking too much caffeine or alcohol.

Some tips for reducing your intake of caffeine and alcohol include:

  • Limiting yourself to one cup of coffee per day
  • Avoiding energy drinks
  • Drinking alcohol in moderation

Get professional help

If you’re struggling to manage your stress levels, it’s important to seek professional help.

A therapist can help you identify stressors and develop coping strategies. They can also provide support and guidance during difficult times.

If you’re interested in finding a therapist, we recommend that you:

  • Ask your doctor for a referral
  • Look for a therapist who specializes in stress management
  • Check with your insurance provider to see what’s covered
  • Read online reviews

Final Thoughts

Stress is a normal part of life, but it can become overwhelming. If you’re struggling to cope with stress, we hope that this article has been helpful.

Remember, there are a variety of stress management techniques that you can try. And if you’re still struggling, don’t hesitate to seek professional help.

If you’re looking for more information on managing stress and taking care of your overall brain health, we recommend that you check out our website.

We have a wide range of articles and resources that can help you cope with chronic stress and improve your cognitive function.

Or, if you’re looking for more personalized help, we recommend that you join our online community. Our members are always happy to offer support and advice.

Thanks for reading! We hope this article has been helpful. Feel free to share it with anyone you know who’s a bit stressed out.

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