In general, most people know when they are on overload. Our bodies and minds usually tell us when we need to slow down. There are physical symptoms, such as insomnia, headaches, back or neck pain, fatigue, and gastrointestinal problems. Psychologically, when we are stressed we are more prone to irritability, tearfulness, anger, or sadness. And our behaviors can change as well—we might drink more alcohol, exercise less, eat more sweet or salty food, or chew more gum. If you have noticed any of these symptoms, it may mean that you need to learn some strategies to improve your physical and psychological health, such as relaxation techniques and/or cognitive approaches.
A little bit of stress is actually good. We are more productive and even happier when we are a bit revved up. But we need to recognize our own limits—we all have a threshold, basically a tolerance for stress. So as our stress level increases, we do better, but only up to a point. As our stress level continues to increase, our health begins to suffer.
There is no one right answer here. Each person has to approach this on an individual basis. What works for one might well not work for another. And what works for you probably might not be as effective for your friends. We encourage you to explore some of the educational resources listed below.
Relaxation strategies that tend to work for most people include progressive muscle relaxation or meditation, stress management strategies such as cognitive behavioral therapies (that examine automatic recurrent negative thoughts), journaling, lifestyle modifications, exercise, and social support.