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May 4, 2023

The Risks of Chronic Stress and the Importance of Self-Care

by Amie Egbuniwe, MSW, LCSW

Most of the time, we’re all stressed and are wishing things would just slow down. We often forget the importance of reducing stress in our lives and the negative impact it can have on our long term health.

What is Stress?

Stress is a natural and helpful response to a threat. For short periods of time, it can help keep us safe from danger and our bodies are designed to handle stress in small doses. However, chronic stress, constant stress experienced over a prolonged period of time, can take a heavy toll on one’s body and emotional state. There are correlations between chronic stress and high blood pressure, heart attacks, stroke, inflammation in the circulatory system, digestive problems, headaches, anxiety and depression, among others.

Stressful events are a part of life, and a number of factors can aid in the development of chronic stress. Some factors cannot be changed; therefore, it is important to take steps to inhibit as many stressful factors as we can that are within our control as well as manage the impact that stressful events can have on us. A highly effective way to prevent stress from becoming chronic is to utilize healthy coping skills and self-care.

Ways to Prevent Stress


Self-care can be defined as any healthy, deliberate, activity intended to nourish your mental, emotional, and/or physical well-being. Some examples of self-care are: developing and maintaining healthy relationships and setting healthy boundaries with others, getting adequate sleep, regular movement or exercise, pampering yourself, eating nutritious foods, aromatherapy, or doing something that brings you joy, such as listening to music, cooking, reading, or watching a movie you enjoy.

Healthy Coping Skills

Healthy coping skills are activities or behaviors we have learned that we can utilize in the moment to help manage stressful situations or overwhelming emotions. Examples of healthy coping skills include: taking deep breaths, reframing your negative thoughts, going for a walk, journaling, utilizing mindfulness and gratitude, or reaching out to a loved one or therapist for support when needed. Utilizing healthy coping skills and self-care should be done regularly and consistently to help us maintain optimal health and wellness.

Individualized Prevention

Self-care should be individualized, as what is helpful for one person may not be helpful for another. The goal of utilizing both self-care and healthy coping skills should be to reduce stress and maintain equilibrium of all your systems — mental, emotional, and physical. When you first begin self-care, think of things you find most helpful and what you can reasonably and consistently sustain on a regular basis. Once you identify at least 10 self-care practices, think of your daily routine and where you can fit them in. Remember, consistency is key. Having established a daily routine for self-care and being intentional about practicing healthy coping skills can help you develop healthy habits which, eventually, lead to a healthier lifestyle and a reduction in stress and improved overall well-being, as a result.


  1. National Institute of Mental Health (2022) Caring for Your Mental Health.
  2. William Shaw, PhD; Susan Labott-Smith, PhD, ABPP; Matthew M. Burg, PhD; Camelia Hostinar, PhD; Nicholas Alen, BA; Miranda A.L. van Tilburg, PhD; Gary G. Berntson, PhD; Steven M. Tovian, PhD, ABPP, FAClinP, FAClinHP; and Malina Spirito, PsyD, Med (2018, November 1). Stress effects on the body. American Psychological Association.,tie%20stress%20to%20heart%20attack
  3. Sarah-Valin Bloom, LCSW (2020, April 30). Self Care vs Coping Skills: What are the Differences and How They Help. Quartet Health.


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