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Sound Familiar?

Kat was the epitome of “work hard, play hard.”  She was up every morning at 5am for exercise and a healthy smoothie, all done by 630am, just in time to wake her children and get them ready for the school day.  After 730am drop-off at school, she was onto work for her “morning round-up” with all of her employees, followed by back to back meetings and prioritizing all day long — she was often one of the first people in the office and even more often, one of the last ones to leave, usually no earlier than 6pm, at which point she picked her kids up from her mother’s house and brought them home to prepare dinner and oversee homework and chores.  She was usually out by 10pm during the school week, but somehow, managed to maintain an extremely active social life on the weekends.  In fact, she was often referred to as “the life of the party.”  She knew it.  Her friends knew it.  Her co-workers knew it.  Heck, everyone knew it!  Perhaps not ironically, when she stopped showing up to birthday parties, anniversary celebrations, and work happy hours, everyone also knew something must be amiss.  When she took a number of unexpected days off from work in a row, they really knew.  She had been complaining a lot in recent months that her routine had been getting to her — what was once supportive and stable started feeling heavier.  She was having to drag herself out of bed most mornings.  Parties and get-togethers had lost their luster — each one was feeling disappointing.  Was this just stress? 

Like most people, Landon understood that he would deal with a certain level of monotony and rigamorole at workHe even understood that perhaps more than most other types of jobs, being a flight attendant required a certain level of stress-tolerance that was not always called for in other jobs.  However, last week, he found out his airline was laying off workers — in fact, he missed the chopping block but was devastated to find out three of his closest work-friends had been axed.  Not only was he sad to lose them from a relational standpoint, but he felt highly anxious about the notion that it meant more work to be done by fewer people.  The normal strain of dealing with tired, irritable, and sometimes downright irrational travelers was peaking.  He wasn’t sure how long he could keep it up.

River heard the term “stressed out” thrown around constantly in everything from TikTok videos to talk around the office to TV shows, and somehow, never felt she really understood the precise meaning of the term.  Some people used it to mean angry or irritable, some people used it to mean tired and overwhelmed, some people used it to mean anxious or frightened, and some people used it to mean “burned out,” another turn of phrase she didn’t really understand because people seemed to use it to mena a hundred different things as well!  But in the middle of all of this conceptual uncertainty, she was beginning to understand what it meant experientially.  Her divorce was at a standstill — ever since she’d served her partner, communication had been hostile, terse, and as of the past two weeks, essentially totally non-existent.  Her hope that they could amicably part ways was fading fast.  To make matters worse, her children inexplicably seemed blindsided by her decision, in spite of the fact that she’d been telling them for years she was unhappy.  They were acting out as a result and saying hurtful things, as well as asking to spend more time with her soon to be ex.  And her mother’s faltering health somehow was worsening at just the wrong time, in the middle of all of this.  Her stomach hurt more or less constantly, she had a tight feeling in her chest and found it difficult to breathe even when at rest, and at least twice in the past month she wondered if she was having a panic attack.  If this was what “stressed out” meant, she didn’t want anything to do with it!

The Impact of Stress on Mental Health: Understanding the Relationship

Stress is an inevitable part of our daily lives, affecting us both physically and mentally. While some level of stress can motivate individuals to perform better and create a sense of urgency, excessive or chronic stress can have detrimental effects on mental health.

Understanding Stress

Stress is the body’s natural response to a perceived threat or challenge. When faced with stressors, the body activates the “fight or flight” response, releasing hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. While this response is useful in short-term situations, prolonged exposure to stress can lead to a range of mental health issues. 

The Connection with Mental Health: Stress and Anxiety, Depression, & Substance Abuse

Numerous studies have established a clear link between stress and mental health problems. Stress plays a significant role in the development and exacerbation of various psychiatric disorders, including anxiety and depression. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that nearly 1 in 5 adults in the United States suffers from a mental illness, and stress is often a contributing factor.

Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health conditions associated with stress. Excessive stress triggers a constant feeling of apprehension and worry. According to a study conducted by researchers at Washington University in St. Louis, stress, particularly chronic stress, can lead to an increased risk of developing anxiety disorders. The study found that individuals facing high levels of stress were more likely to experience panic attacks, generalized anxiety, and social anxiety.

Depression, another prevalent mental health disorder, is closely linked to chronic stress. A study published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology revealed that individuals living in stressful environments, such as inner-city neighborhoods and areas with high crime rates in St. Louis, were more susceptible to developing depression. The study highlighted the impact of chronic stress on altering brain chemistry and triggering depressive episodes.

Stress also plays a significant role in the development and relapse of substance abuse issues. In St. Louis, where socioeconomic disparities and urban challenges are prevalent, stressors like poverty, discrimination, and violence contribute to higher rates of substance abuse. A publication by the National Institute on Drug Abuse indicates that individuals facing chronic stress are more likely to turn to substances like alcohol or drugs as a coping mechanism, further worsening their mental health condition.

Coping Mechanisms for Stress

While stress is an inevitable part of life, it is essential to develop effective coping mechanisms to mitigate its impact on mental health. Researchers from St. Louis University have highlighted the importance of stress management techniques such as exercise, relaxation techniques, social support, and therapy. By employing these strategies, individuals can buffer the negative effects of stress and preserve their mental well-being.

The Importance of Seeking Help

Recognizing the signs of excessive stress and seeking help is crucial for maintaining good mental health. Many St. Louis-based organizations, such as the Mental Health America of Eastern Missouri and the Center for Behavioral Health, offer resources and support systems for those struggling with stress-related mental health issues. Individuals should reach out to professional mental health services, as timely intervention can significantly improve outcomes.

The Bottom Line.

Stress is a pervasive issue in today’s society, with wide-ranging consequences for mental health. Chronic stress can lead to the development or exacerbation of various mental health disorders, including anxiety, depression, and substance abuse problems. Individuals living in St. Louis, with its unique socioeconomic challenges, are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of stress on mental well-being. By prioritizing stress management techniques and seeking help when needed, individuals can safeguard their mental health and lead balanced lives in the face of stress. 

Some tips you can take now.

  • Mindfulness and Meditation.  One proven technique for managing stress is mindfulness meditation. Research published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology has shown that consistent mindfulness practice reduces stress, anxiety, and depression. St. Louis, MO offers several resources for those interested in exploring meditation, such as meditation centers and yoga studios. By setting aside just a few minutes each day to practice mindfulness, individuals can cultivate an increased sense of calmness and resilience in the face of stressors.
  • Physical Exercise and Outdoor Activities.  Regular physical exercise is not only beneficial for our physical health but also for our mental well-being. Engaging in activities such as walking, jogging, or cycling around the scenic parks and trails in St. Louis can greatly reduce stress levels. A study published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness suggests that exercise increases the production of endorphins, which are natural mood enhancers. By incorporating physical activity into their daily routine, individuals can effectively alleviate stress and improve overall mental health.
  • Social Support and Connections.  Strong social connections play a pivotal role in stress management. Research published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior shows the importance of having a supportive network of family and friends in times of stress. By fostering supportive relationships and seeking emotional support, stress can be significantly reduced.
  • Time Management and Prioritization.  Often, stress is a result of feeling overwhelmed by the demands of daily life. Developing effective time management and prioritization skills can alleviate this stress. Research published in the European Journal of Psychological Assessment suggests that individuals who engage in effective time management experience reduced stress levels. 
  • Relaxation Techniques.  Incorporating relaxation techniques into one’s routine can provide a sense of calmness and rejuvenation. Research published in the Journal of Applied Psychology highlights the benefits of relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises and progressive muscle relaxation. By practicing these techniques regularly, individuals can reduce muscle tension, lower blood pressure, and alleviate stress. St. Louis, MO offers various wellness centers and spas that provide services such as guided relaxation sessions and therapeutic massages.
  • Healthy Lifestyle Choices.  Taking care of one’s physical health can significantly impact stress levels. Engaging in a healthy lifestyle by consuming a balanced diet, getting enough sleep, and avoiding excessive alcohol and caffeine intake can increase resilience to stress. Research published in the Journal of Health Psychology indicates that a nutrient-rich diet and quality sleep improve overall mental well-being and help combat stress. St. Louis, MO offers a variety of health food markets and wellness centers, making it easier for individuals to adopt healthy lifestyle choices.

Need some help with all of these?  Call us now!

At Change, Inc. St. Louis Counseling, our therapists aren’t just expert counselors – they’re agents of change!  Not only can we help people manager their stress levels, we can help you learn to live more with more happiness and purpose!  We can help you build new and lasting support systems, restructure your new life for the better, and get you on the road to healthy, vibrant living!

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ST. LOUIS COunseling Locations


Change, Inc. South Hampton & 44:

3460 Hampton Avenue, Suite 204

St. Louis, MO 63139 



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314-669-6242 / 877-5-CHANGE (524-2643)




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