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How Stress and Mental Health Are Connected

May 24, 2024

Written by: Erendira Zazueta, Coalition Coordinator


It is commonly known that stress causes mental health issues and mental health issues cause stress. It is like a constant cycle that repeats, so how do you stop that cycle? What do you focus on, stress or mental health? That’s for you to decide. You can always speak to your doctor if you feel that your mental health is disturbing your daily life then you can address that first. Reducing stress can sometimes be a bit easier to do. There are many ways to reduce stress.

It is normal to experience stress especially if there is a threat or a danger. Stress is a result of brain chemicals called hormones that begin rushing through the body. The hormones are responsible for sweat, quick breathing, and muscles becoming tense to prepare for action in a threatening situation. This is known as the fight-or-flight moment. Stress is normal and it can sometimes be lifesaving when we need it to be able to respond to a situation. What isn’t safe is when the body is in constant stress mode for a long time. Experiencing stress frequently for long periods of time can increase the risk for medical and mental health problems.


Having long-term stress can cause an increase in risk of anxiety, depression, substance use problems, sleep problems, pain, and muscle tension. It can also increase the risk of medical problems such as headaches, gastrointestinal problems, a weakened immune system, difficulty conceiving, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and stroke. Sometimes it might feel like we’re not stressed but there are some symptoms of long-term stress like memory problems, difficulty concentrating, negativity, constant worrying, or even difficulty making decisions. There are also emotional and physical symptoms. If you are experiencing any of these you have to start working on reducing your stress before it starts affecting you mental and overall health.



What if you can’t figure out what is stressing you out? For some people the answer may be obvious, like work, a relationship, a major life decision.  What if someone is completely ok with all those things? Sometimes it’s the physical environment you’re in. Subconsciously you might not feel safe in your living space, or you don’t realize it is very noisy around the area. It could even be the fact that you hear cars driving on the main street near your living area. Sometimes it can be hard to remove the stressors from your life but there are things you can do to help. If you find that your living space is your stressor then try to change things like adding an extra lock to your door, an extra safety alarm, or buy some noise blockers you can maybe add on a window. If it’s your relationship or your job that’s the stressor then take a moment to reflect on what it is that’s stressing, you out and work on that.

Now what if it’s mental health that is causing the stress? Being worried about your mental health is normal but if it is causing you too many problems? If it gets to that point, then it is important to address it. Try to find yourself a therapist and see what type of therapy can help you. Therapy accompanied by some stress-relief exercises can be good too. Working on your mental health and having a professional guide you through your journey can cause relief in knowing you are bettering yourself. Having that relief and trying some things like yoga, breathing exercises, meditation, and getting enough sleep will help you overall. If your mental health is taken care of then you have one less stressor in your life and you can focus on the other things that are stressing, you out.


Sometimes people can worry about being stressed out because stress can supposedly lead to certain diseases, but stress is not linked directly to causing a disease. One of them is high blood pressure but there is no direct link between stress and blood pressure. What can happen is that if you are stressed out you might engage in some risky behavior like drinking too much alcohol or caffeine, eating unhealthy foods, eating too much, or not getting enough physical activity. These behaviors can lead to an increased risk of a heart attack, stroke, or high disease. This can also be caused by anxiety, depression, or family problems.


One connection people make is that stress causes high blood pressure. There is no proof that stress itself is what causes high blood pressure but it can lead to unhealthy habit that do cause blood pressure to go up. Examples of those behaviors are drinking too much alcohol or caffeine, not having much physical activity, eating unhealthy foods, or eating lots of junk foods. Those are the things that cause the blood pressure to increase. To help decrease blood pressure you need to eat healthy foods, increase the minutes of physical activity you have in the day, and get enough sleep. Some physical activities can even help reduce stress like going on a walk, light cardio, some yoga, or even playing a sport you like. You will not only be decreasing your stress but also lowering your blood pressure.

Stress and mental health go hand in hand. So if you are struggling with one, it will affect the other. If you have the ability to, try to work on either your stress or mental health throughout the week to help you feel better. You may notice some big changes in how you feel physically or mentally. The easier one to work on is stress and it can just be small habits in the day that will take up only 5-10 minutes of your time. Consider working on reducing your stress to help yourself have a better mental health overall.


Thank you for checking in this week! Come back next week for our final blog!



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