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What is Stress?

Stress occurs when we perceive a threat to our physical or psychological well-being and believe that we have inadequate resources to cope. When we are stressed, the body responds as though it is in danger. It makes hormones that speed up the heart, make us breathe faster, and give us a burst of energy. This is called the fight-or-flight stress response.

Some stress is normal and even useful. Stress can help if you need to work hard or react quickly. But if stress happens too often or lasts too long, it can have negative effects. It can be linked to headaches, digestive problems, back pain, insomnia and a host of diseases from Alzheimer’s to cancer. If you already have a health problem, stress may make it worse. It can make you moody, tense, or depressed. Your relationships, creativity and productivity may suffer.

The good news is that you can learn ways to manage stress. To get stress under control:

  • Find out what is causing stress in your life.
  • Look for ways to reduce the amount of stress in your life.
  • Learn healthy ways to relieve stress or reduce its harmful effects.

The information, links and resources on this web page are designed to help you manage your stress and develop a healthy, stress-resilient lifestyle.

To find out how stressed you are, use this Interactive Tool:

What Is Your Stress Level? - presented by Kaiser Permanente.

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