The Impact of Stress on Mental and Emotional Well-Being

Learn how to manage stress for better mental & emotional wellness. Understand how prolonged & uncontrolled stress affects your wellbeing & how to cope.

The Impact of Stress on Mental and Emotional Well-Being

Sometimes, stress can have a detrimental effect on the basic components of mental health (your thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and body reactions). Stress can be damaging to your well-being if you use unhealthy methods to cope with it. The negative effects of stress on your wellbeing can become a source of stress in and of themselves. Prolonged or uncontrolled stress can lead to physical and mental disorders such as digestive issues, insomnia, cardiovascular disease, anxiety, reproductive disorders, headaches, chronic viral infections, depression, and decreased immunity.

Short-term acute stress isn't necessarily a bad thing, and in fact, it can be beneficial. We can approach stressors with a positive outlook that we can manage them well and that we have the resources. We can also view the response to physical stress as a response that helps us perform better, such as increasing oxygen in the brain. Both are types of “cognitive reevaluation”.

Professor Wendy Mendes, PhD, from UCSF, has demonstrated that teaching students a positive way of viewing acute stress leads to better test performance. Being emotionally healthy doesn't mean that you're happy all the time. It means that you are aware of your emotions. You can deal with them, whether positive or negative. Emotionally healthy people still feel stress, anger, and sadness.

But they know how to handle their negative feelings. They can tell when a problem is more than they can solve on their own. They also know when to seek help from their doctor. When stress becomes overwhelming and prolonged, the risks of mental health problems and medical problems increase. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is an intervention that improves well-being and reduces distress, supposedly by increasing psychological flexibility (PF).

Long-term stress increases the risk of mental health problems such as anxiety and depression, problems with substance use, sleep problems, pain and bodily discomfort such as muscle tension. An acute physical stress protocol developed by the Dutch extreme athlete Wim Hof has become very popular in many countries. Small doses of stress help people meet deadlines, prepare for presentations, be productive, and arrive on time for important events. The signs and symptoms of stress can be cognitive (related to thinking), emotional, physical or behavioral. Stress often occurs when a person feels that there are high pressures or demands, that there is a threat to their well-being or that they do not have enough resources to cope with the demands. The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California at Berkeley has an online library with many practices based on experimental research that can quickly create positive emotions. These situations can include negative events such as financial problems, relationship breakup, difficulties at work or school, injuries, illnesses or death and bereavement.

It's easy to think of the worst outcomes which are catastrophic but which create unnecessary stress excitement and suffering. Too much news and visual images about a traumatic event can cause symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and health problems years later according to research conducted by Roxy Silver PhD of the University of California at Irvine and others. When stress begins to interfere with daily activities and burden your life try to communicate with others. Talking about your feelings is an important part of managing stress levels.

It's important to find healthy ways to cope with stress such as exercising regularly getting enough sleep eating healthy foods avoiding drugs and alcohol spending time with friends or family members engaging in hobbies or activities you enjoy practicing relaxation techniques such as yoga meditation or deep breathing.