Anyone managing work and family responsibilities likely knows the meaning of stress.

Stress is the rate of wear and tear on your body caused by living. It is the physical, mental and chemical adjustments the body makes when dealing with life’s circumstances. Learning the emotional and physical impacts of stress and methods to deal with its effects can help a person manage the responsibilities

In other words, stress is a response to what is happening around you. It is the process the body uses to keep balance and sustain life when various demands are made on you. Stress can be good, as well as bad. When stress becomes prolonged or particularly frustrating, however, it’s harmful.

Some stress motivates us and adds spice to our live. But, when the demands of your life exceed your resources, you experience too much stress and can experience damaging effects.

Recognizing the early signs of distress, and doing something about them, can make an important difference in the quality of one’s life. Stress comes from a variety of sources and can be grouped into four major categories.

n Customary, anticipated life events. These events represent the changes throughout life such as graduating from high school or entering into a marriage. These events can be influenced, but not totally controlled, by personal decisions.

n Unexpected life events. These events are the tragedies of life: being involved in an accident, being the victim of a crime or the sudden death of a loved one.

n Progressive, accumulating events. These represent the everyday strains of life. Especially stressful are the unresolved conflicts in close relationships: ongoing conflicts with a spouse, continuing parent-child friction or long-term care for a disabled relative.

n Personal trait stress. This is the self-imposed stress caused by perfectionism, lack of self-confidence and feelings of inadequacy. It is the only source of stress where individuals can exert some control.

A single stressful event usually will not cause a great deal of physical or emotional damage. However, when several stressful events occur in a short period of time called a stress pile-up a variety of unhealthy effects can result.

Damaging stress has been linked to asthma, ulcers, cancer, headaches, heart disease and stroke, rheumatoid arthritis and the common cold.

Learning more about stress and developing ways to manage it is a positive health investment. There are many things that you can do to defend yourself against the effects of too much stress.

When stress occurs, people need to recognize and deal with it. As you begin to understand more about how stress affects you as an individual, you will invent your own ideas about how to help ease tension.

— Turn to physical activity.

— Share your concerns with others.

— Know your limits.

— Take care of yourself.

— Make time for fun.

— Check off your tasks.

— Consider delegating tasks to others.

— Get away from it for a while.

— Avoid self-medication.

— Learn to relax and smile.

There is nothing you can do to totally eliminate stress from your life you would not want that. It keeps you alert and keeps you from being bored. However, when stress starts to have a negative effect on your life, it is important to determine the source of your stress and consider ways to lessen the impact on you.