Losing a job … or starting one. Getting married … or divorced. Managing personal health issues… or caring for a sick family member. Adjusting to new parenthood… or a newly empty nest. Stress is a part of being human, and although we can’t eliminate it altogether, we can choose how we respond. Here’s how it affects our health — and how to form healthier coping skills.

How Stress Affects Our Health

Stress can take a serious toll on our minds. It’s linked to:

  • Anxiety
  • Problems with focus
  • Lack of motivation
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Mood swings
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Other mental health issues

It also impacts our physical health, increasing our risk for:

  • Obesity
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Chest and muscle pains
  • Stomach and sleeping problems
  • Other physical health issues

The good news? Healthier coping skills are within reach!

Healthier Ways to Cope with Stress

Numbing out with TV, alcohol, tobacco, drugs, video games, emotional eating or other distractions may provide temporary relief … so it seems. However, it often worsens stress — without addressing it. Try these healthier strategies instead!

light reading

1. Keep sleep in the front seat.

When you’re well-rested, you’re better equipped to solve problems and navigate stressful moments. Want to boost your snooze? Zzzip over here for some sleeping tips!

sleeping tips

2. Stretch away the stress.

Want a great way to hit the reset button on a stressful day? Do a few yoga poses … or try another form of stretching!


3. Boost your mood with movement.

In addition to stretching, other types of physical activity (like cardiovascular exercise that gets your heart pumping) produce feel-good chemicals called endorphins. Not sure where to start? Take this quick quiz!

healthy diet

4. Nourish your body with nutritious foods.

Unhealthy foods leave you feeling sluggish, but healthy meals and snacks uplift your mood and increase your energy. Find free, easy recipes!


5. Take a breather.

Taking a deep breath is like telling your brain: “You can calm down and relax now.” Plus, you can do it anywhere. Want to kick it up a notch? Try meditation … or coloring! Research shows it can have a meditative effect.

6. Put it in writing.

Writing down your worries can help you get to the source of what’s stressing you out. It also gets it out of your head and onto the page, which can take a huge weight off your shoulders!

family support

7. Surround yourself with support.

Once you’ve gotten to the bottom of your stress, lean on loved ones for support. If you’re comfortable, ask for a hug! Physical touch releases oxytocin, a relaxing, stress-busting hormone.

Unfortunately, stress will show up from time to time — but with the right tools, it won’t run the show.

Need some healthy inspiration? Check out these success stories from Oklahomans who are managing stress in healthy ways … and thriving!