Why You Need to Care About Stress—and How to Start Managing It Now

Control your stress and protect your health by downloading Sharecare.

An Image

Medically reviewed in September 2021

Updated on March 28, 2022

Whether it comes from being stuck in traffic, worrying about money, or having an argument with your partner, you know that some amount of stress is inevitable in daily life. Bigger stressors could include losing a loved one, going through a divorce, or feeling unsafe in an increasingly uncertain world. Even happy events, like buying a house or getting a promotion, can be stressful.

No matter the cause, when faced with a stressful situation, the body tends to respond in a predictable way, by activating the “fight or flight” response. When this happens, the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline flood the body, quickening heart rate and providing a jolt of energy to fend off a perceived threat or attack.

How stress makes you sick 
That stress response is what helped keep our ancestors alive when faced with predators and other deadly threats. The trouble is that while we typically don’t need to fend off wild animals in the modern world, our bodies can’t always tell the difference between the imminent danger of a car running a red light as we cross the street and the daily grind of juggling family responsibilities and a full-time job. When faced with a consistent load of stress, our bodies often get stuck in the “on” position of constant, chronic stress. 

In addition to perennial causes of stress such as money and work, the COVID-19 pandemic has walloped Americans with additional layers of stress. According to the American Psychological Association’s (APA) Stress in America 2021 survey:

  • 63 percent of adults felt that uncertainty about the future caused them stress
  • 49 percent felt that the pandemic made planning for their future feel impossible
  • 36 percent said it has been more stressful to make day-to-day decisions

The problem is that unchecked stress can lead to a host of mental and physical problems, including a weakened immune system, high blood pressure and heart disease, and digestive issues. It may also cause people to adopt unhealthy behaviors like overeating, smoking, and alcohol abuse as a means of coping. 

The good news is that it is possible to manage stress and maintain a positive outlook amid difficult circumstances. The APA’s 2021 survey also found that 70 percent of American adults were confident that the pandemic would resolve and 57 percent reported that they tend to bounce back quickly after hard times.

Identify your stress levels
Developing awareness of how stressed you truly are can help you to start to manage it. Sharecare, available for Android and iOS, features a stress tracker. It's a quick, easy way to follow your stress levels from day to day and spot trends. Here’s how it works.

For Android users:

  • Generate a stress analysis by making a phone call that lasts at least 30 seconds. Sharecare will analyze your voice and generate a response, detailing how stressed you are (or aren’t). The app does not listen to your calls—it just listens to the stress fractals in your voice. 
  • You can also track stress manually by rating your perceived stress level via the Tracker.

For iOS users:

  • Activate your phone’s microphone and speak for at least 30 seconds to generate a voice analysis. Sharecare will analyze your voice and generate a response, detailing how stressed you are (or aren’t). The app just listens to the stress fractals in your voice. 
  • You can also track stress manually by rating your perceived stress level via the Tracker.

For desktop users:

  • If you don’t have a mobile device, stress can be tracked manually via the desktop Tracker.

How tracking helps your health
One way the app improves your health is that it can help you identify what’s stressing you out. Keep notes about what you were doing, what you were thinking, or what was happening each time you use the stress tracker.

Were you just handed a work assignment with a short deadline? Did you just have an unpleasant call with a friend? Understanding what pushes your stress buttons can help you come up with a plan for dealing with them.  

Dial down the stress
Here are some simple things you can do to get stress under control:

  • Exercise. One of the best things you can do to boost overall health and de-stress is to exercise on a regular basis. A cardio workout—such as walking at a fast pace, jogging, swimming, or using an elliptical—is a great way to blow off steam.
  • Get enough sleep. It’s difficult to deal with each day’s challenges if you’re exhausted. Practice good sleep hygiene habits to rest your mind and de-stress.
  • Focus on a healthy diet. Adrenaline temporarily suppresses the appetite. But if you remain stressed, the hormone cortisol, which fuels appetite, is released. Stress can also fuel cravings for high-fat, sugary foods.
  • Take care of the little stuff. Tackle the to-dos lingering in the back of your mind, whether it’s calling your health insurer to clear up a question about a claim or getting your car serviced. That alone can take some weight off your shoulders.
  • Taper off social media. Make a conscious decision to check your social feeds only once or twice a day. Fight the urge to see how many comments or likes you got. Try taking a break for a few days—you may discover things you enjoy doing outside of the virtual world.
  • Slow down. Meditation, deep breathing, and yoga are all proven ways to relax and let go of stress. 
  • Nurture relationships. Close friends and family members can act as stress buffers when you’re feeling overwhelmed. You may find practical assistance by opening up to the people who care about you. 
  • Seek help. If your anxiety level continues to register at the high end of the stress tracker, talk to a therapist or other mental health professional for help in identifying and handling your stressors.
Article sources open article sources

American Psychological Association. Stress in America 2021: Stress and Decision-Making During the Pandemic. 2021.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Mental Health. Coping with Stress. Page last reviewed: March 25, 2022.
5 Things You Should Know About Stress. National Institute of Mental Health. NIH Publication No. 19-MH-8109.

More On

Petting Dogs or Cats Can Reduce Stress

video

Petting Dogs or Cats Can Reduce Stress
A study commissioned by Washington State University found that comfort from an animal can have a "significant impact" on stress levels.
What to Do If Your Job Is Seriously Stressing You Out

article

What to Do If Your Job Is Seriously Stressing You Out
No matter what type of work you do, there's bound to be some kind of stress involved. In fact, 61 percent of Americans say work is one of the top sou...
I Deleted My Instagram—Plus 7 Other Things That Calmed Me Down

slideshow

I Deleted My Instagram—Plus 7 Other Things That Calmed Me Down
I never realized how anxious I was until my phone analyzed the stress in my voice.
How does stress affect inflammation?

video

How does stress affect inflammation?
Dr. Holly Lucille - How does stress affect inflammation?
How does stress affect my body?

video

How does stress affect my body?
Dr. Holly Lucille - How does stress affect my body?