Date posted: 13/06/2017 2 min read

The harmful effects of stress

How to identify – and avoid – the harmful effects of stress.

In brief

  • Stress can contribute to unwanted health conditions.
  • Learning to better manage stress can help you live a happier, healthier and longer life.
  • Having a level of stress that you can manage helps you perform and keeps you motivated.

We all feel stress at one time or another. Many of us feel stress on an all too regular basis and some even feel stress constantly.  

Learning to better manage stress can help you live a happier, healthier and longer life.  

What causes stress?

What causes stress is different for everyone, but there are some common triggers. These include:  

  • too much work or study
  • concern or uncertainty about the future
  • worry about finances
  • health concerns
  • difficulty with personal relationships.

Other major causes of stress may include:

  • a death in the family
  • going through divorce or separation
  • falling pregnant
  • attending family gatherings
  • undergoing big changes to sleep, routine and diet.

Why stress is inevitable

The reality is that all of us are exposed to some level of stress throughout our lives. Like death and taxes, stress is inevitable.  

Related: Is stress keeping you up at night?

If stress at work is keeping you up at night, follow these sleep-promoting tips to get a better night’s rest.


But stress is actually important. Having a level of stress that you can manage helps you perform and keeps you motivated. This is an optimal amount of stress.  

Either too little or too much stress may be counterproductive. Too little stress leaves you unmotivated. Too much stress makes you feel overwhelmed, lowers your performance and hinders your cognitive and emotional abilities.  

People react to stress in many different ways, but the ways stress can manifest are threefold, impacting on the mind, the body and general wellbeing. Get to know your stress signals by looking for the symptoms listed below.

How stress affects you mentally:

  •       You might experience poor cognitive function.
  •       It can impact on your concentration and attention span.
  •       You might struggle to remember things.
  •       It can make you pessimistic.
  •       You might have difficulty making decisions.  

How stress impacts you physically:

  •       You might feel fatigued.
  •       You might experience skin conditions.
  •       Your immunity can be lowered.
  •       You might sleep poorly.
  •       You could experience headaches.
  •       You might have an upset stomach.
  •       You could feel muscle tension.  

 How stress affects your wellbeing:

  •       Stress lowers your mood.
  •        It creates anxiety.
  •       Stress can make you feel irritable.
  •       You can be quick to anger.
  •       You might feel impatient.
  •       You could feel nervous.

Tips for managing stress

The next time you feel stressed, follow these five tips to help manage the feeling.  

  1.     Develop an understanding of how stress affects you physiologically and psychologically.
  2.     Learn to recognise the symptoms of stress.
  3.     Understand what your personal triggers are.
  4.     Develop techniques for releasing stress such as meditation or practicing mindfulness.
  5.     Learn how to avoid or minimise the situations that cause you to stress.  

Related: Using meditation to cope with stress

How to make time for, and use, meditation for stress management.


The good news is that stress can be overcome and there are plenty of strategies to manage and reduce your stress levels.  

Keep an eye out for the next installment in this column, which will outline why stress can be good for you.  

This article is part of a regular Balance column offering tips for juggling work and life while also managing your mental and physical wellbeing. Have something you’d like this column to cover? Email the Acuity team now.