TIME Mental Health/Psychology

17 Surprising Reasons You’re Stressed Out

woman-headache-stressed
Getty Images

Watch out for these hidden anxiety triggers

You’re probably all too aware of the major sources of stress in your life—money, your terrible commute, the construction workers who start jackhammering at 5 a.m. But stress and anxiety don’t have to just come from obvious or even negative sources. “There are plenty of chronic strains and low-grade challenges that don’t necessarily overwhelm you in the moment, but almost take more of a toll in the long run,” says Scott Schieman, PhD, professor of sociology at the University of Toronto. These are some of unexpected reasons why you might feel anxious or agitated. By recognizing them for what they are, says Schieman, you can better prepare to cope.

Your significant other

Even if you have a blissfully happy relationship with your live-in partner or spouse, you’re both bound to do things that get on each other’s nerves. “Early in the relationship, it’s usually about space and habits—like whether you squeeze the toothpaste from the middle or the bottom of the tube,” says Ken Yeager, PhD, associate professor of psychiatry at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. “Later on, you might clash over parenting style or financial issues, and finding a unified front to face these issues together.” So what’s the key to surviving and thriving in your life together? Finding balance, says Yeager: spending the right amount of time together (not too much and not too little), making compromises, keeping communication open and honest, and remembering to acknowledge what you love about each other on a daily basis.

Everyday annoyances

We’re told not to sweat the small stuff, but sometimes it’s the little things that have the biggest impact on our mood: the never-ending phone calls with your insurance company, the rude cashier at the grocery store, the 20 minutes you lose looking for a parking space. “We let these things bother us because they trigger unconscious fears,” says Yeager—fears of being seen as irresponsible, of being bullied or embarrassed, or of being late all the time, for example. “Sometimes you need to take a step back and realize that you’re doing the best you can given the circumstances.”

Read more: 12 Signs You May Have an Anxiety Disorder

Other people’s stress

Stress is contagious, according to a 2014 German study: In a series of experiments, most participants who simply observed others completing a stressful task experienced an increase themselves in production of the stress hormone cortisol—a phenomenon known as empathic stress. You can also experience stress when someone you know is affected by a traumatic event, like a car crash or a chronic illness. “You start to worry, ‘Oh my gosh, could that happen to me?’,” says Yeager. “We tend not to think about these things until they hit close to home.”

Social media

It may seem like Facebook is the only way you keep up with the friends you don’t see regularly—which, during particularly busy times, can be just about all of them. The social network also has a downside, according to a 2015 study from the Pew Research Center: It can make you aware of stressful situations in your friends’ lives, which in turn can add more stress to your life. The Pew report didn’t find that social media users, overall, had higher levels of stress, but previous studies have suggested that frequent social-media use can be associated with negative body image and prolonged breakup pain.

Distraction

A distraction can be a good thing then when it takes your mind off of a stressful situation or difficult decision, like when you take a break from work to meet a friend for lunch. But it works the other way, as well: When you’re so busy thinking about something else that you can’t enjoy what’s going on around you, that kind of distraction can be a recipe for stress. Practicing mindfulness gives you brain the refresh it needs, says Richard Lenox, director of the Student Counseling Center at Texas Tech University. Paying full attention to your surroundings when you’re walking and driving can help, he adds. “Stress and anxiety tend to melt away when our mind is focused on the present.”

Read more: 12 Worst Habits for Your Mental Health

Your childhood

Traumatic events that happened when you were a kid can continue to affect your stress levels and overall health into adulthood. A 2014 University of Wisconsin-Madison study found that these childhood experiences may actually change parts of the brain responsible for processing stress and emotion. The way you were raised can also have a lasting impact on your everyday angst, suggests a 2014 Johns Hopkins University study. Researchers found that children of parents with social anxiety disorders are more likely to develop “trickle-down anxiety”—not simply because of their genes, but because of their parents’ behaviors toward them such as a lack of warmth and emotion, or high levels of criticism and doubt.

Tea and chocolate

You probably know to take it easy on the coffee when you’re already feeling on edge. “Caffeine is always going to make stress worse,” says Yeager. But you may not think as much about drinking several cups of tea at once, or chowing down on a bar of dark chocolate—both of which can contain nearly as much caffeine as a cup of joe. “Chocolate is a huge caffeine source,” says Yeager. “I know people who don’t drink coffee but they’ll eat six little candy bars in a two-hour period because they want the same kind of jolt.” Too much caffeine, in any form, can cause problems with sleep, digestion, and irritability.

Read more: 25 Surprising Ways Stress Affects Your Health

Your expectations

When things don’t go the way you’ve planned, do you tend to get upset and act defensively, or do you roll with the punches and set off on a new plan? If it’s the former, you could be contributing to a mindset of pessimism and victimization that will slowly wear you down, even when things may not be as bad as they seem. “Your level of serenity is inversely proportionate to your expectations,” says Yeager. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t set ambitious goals for yourself or settle for less than what you want, of course, but being realistic about what’s truly possible is important, as well.

Your reaction to stress

If you tend to deal with stressful situations by working long hours, skipping your workouts, and bingeing on junk food, we’ve got some bad news: You’re only making it worse. “We know that physical activity and healthy foods will help your body better deal with stress, and yet we often avoid them when we need them the most,” says Yeager. “People really need to think about this downward spiral we get into and work harder to counteract it.”

Multitasking

Think you’re being super efficient by tackling four tasks at once? Chances are you’re not —and it’s only decreasing your productivity while increasing your stress. A 2012 University of Irvine study, for example, found that people who responded to emails all day long while also trying to get their work done experienced more heart-rate variability (an indicator of mental stress) than those who waited to respond to all of their emails at one time. Focusing on one task at a time can ensure that you’re doing that job to the best of your abilities and getting the most out of it, so you won’t have to worry about or go back and fix it later, says Schieman. And don’t worry: You’ll have enough time to do it all. In fact, you may discover you have more time than you thought.

Your favorite sport

Watching a tight game of college hoops can stress you out—even if your alma mater wins. “The body doesn’t distinguish between ‘bad’ stress from life or work and ‘good’ stress caused by game-day excitement,” says Jody Gilchrist, a nurse practitioner at the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Heart and Vascular Clinic. Watching sports can even trigger the body’s sympathetic nervous system, releasing adrenaline and reducing blood flow to the heart. Those temporary consequences aren’t usually anything to be concerned about, but over time, chronic stress can lead to high blood pressure and increased disease risk. And, of course, it doesn’t help if you’re adding alcohol and binge-eating to a situation that’s already stressful on your body. You may not be able to control the outcome of the game, says Gilchrist, but you can limit its effects on your own body.

Read more: 11 Things You Should Never Do When You’re Angry

Digital devices

Whether you’re using it for work or play, technology may play a large role in your mental health, says Yeager. Using computers or e-readers too close to bedtime could lead to sleep problems, he says, and spending too much time virtually socializing can make real-life interactions seem extra stressful. (Plus, texting doesn’t trigger the same feel-good hormones as face-to-face talk does.) Then there’s the dreaded “work creep,” says Schieman, when smartphones allow employees to be tethered to their jobs, even during off-hours. “People say they’re only going to check email for an hour while they’re on vacation, but the problem with email is that they’re filled with responsibilities, new tasks, and dilemmas that are going to be hard to compartmentalize and put out of your head once that hour is up.”

Your (good) health

While it may not be as stressful as having a chronic illness or getting bad news at the doctor’s office, even people in the best shape of their lives worry about their bodies, their diets, and their fitness levels. In fact, people who take healthy living to an extreme may experience some rather unhealthy side effects. People who follow low-carb diets, for example, are more likely to report being sad or stressed out, while those on any kind of restrictive meal plan may feel more tired than usual. And it’s not unheard of for someone to become obsessed with healthy eating (known as orthorexia) or working out (gymorexia). Like any form of perfectionism, these problems can be stressful at best, and extremely dangerous at worst.

Housework

Does folding laundry help you feel calm, or does it make your blood boil? If you’re in a living situation where you feel you’re responsible for an unfair share of work, even chores you once enjoyed may start to feel like torture. “Dividing up housework and parenting responsibilities can be tricky, especially if both partners work outside the home,” says Schieman. “And whether you define that division of labor as equal or unequal can really change your attitude toward it.”

Read more: 19 Natural Remedies for Anxiety

Uncertainty

Stress can be defined as any perceived or actual threat, says Yeager, so any type of doubt that’s looming over you can contribute to your anxiety levels on a daily basis. “When you know something could change at any minute, you always have your guard up and it’s hard to just relax and enjoy anything.” Financial uncertainty may be the most obvious stressor—not being sure if you’ll keep your job during a round of layoffs, or not knowing how you’ll pay your credit card bill. Insecurities in other areas of life, like your relationship or your housing status, can eat away at you too.

Your pet

No matter how much you love your furry friends, there’s no question that they add extra responsibility to your already full plate. Even healthy animals need to be fed, exercised, cleaned up after, and given plenty of attention on a regular basis—and unhealthy ones can be a whole other story. “Pets can be the most positive source of unconditional love, but at the same time they require an extreme amount of energy,” says Yeager. People also tend to underestimate the stress they’ll experience when they lose a pet. “I’ve had people in my office tell me they cried more when their dog died than when their parent died. It’s a very emotional connection.”

Your education

Having a college degree boosts your odds of landing a well-paying job, so although you’re less likely to suffer from money-related anxiety, your education can bring on other types of stress, according to a 2014 study by Schieman and his University of Toronto colleagues. His research found that highly educated people were more likely to be stressed out thanks to job pressures, being overworked, and conflicts between work and family. “Higher levels of authority come with a lot more interpersonal baggage, such as supervising people or deciding whether they get promotions,” says Schieman. “With that type of responsibility, you start to take things like incompetency and people not doing their jobs more personally, and it bothers you more.”

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME Heart Disease

Depression and Stress Could Be ‘Perfect Storm’ for Heart Disease Patients

The combination of depression and stress may increase the chance of a patient dying of heart disease

Intense stress and depression in people with coronary heart disease creates a “perfect storm” that can increase the risk of death, according to a new study in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.

Overall, patients with both conditions are nearly 50% more likely to die or experience a heart attack as a result of heart disease than those with low stress or depression. The results were most apparent in the first two and a half years after observation began.

“The increase in risk accompanying high stress and high depressive symptoms was robust and consistent across demographics, medical history, medication use and health-risk behaviors,” said lead study author Carmela Alcántara, a researcher at Columbia University Medical Center.

The study, which looked at nearly 4,500 adults, expanded on previous research that found that both depression and stress can independently increase the risk of heart disease. The study suggested that some previous research may have misattributed the cause of heart-disease death to stress or depression independently. In reality, the study suggests, the interaction between stress and depression may have led to death rather than either independent factor.

The study traced participants for an average of nearly six years and asked patients to self-report symptoms of depression and stress. Overall, 6.1% of study participants had both high stress and intense symptoms of depression. Only 5.6% of the total sample had high stress alone, and 7.7% had intense symptoms of depression alone.

Researchers said the results suggest that doctors may want to consider additional methods to treat heart disease that include interventions to treat stress and depression.

MONEY health

Americans Less Stressed—Except When It Comes to Money

woman on daybed with $100 bill over her
Zachary Scott—Getty Images

Gen Xers and millennials are the most anxious of all

Feeling anxious about money? You’re not alone. A new survey shows most Americans are at least somewhat stressed out by financial concerns. Moreover, low-income households are increasingly more stressed about money than those with higher-incomes, creating a “stress gap” between rich and poor.

The survey, conducted by American Psychological Association in August 2014, found a whopping 72% of Americans said they felt stressed out about money at some time during the past month, including 22% who said they experienced “extreme stress” during the previous 30 days (rating their stress as an 8, 9, or 10 on a 10-point scale). A large majority of respondents—64%—also said money is a somewhat or very significant source of stress in their lives, with young adults and Gen Xers reporting financial stress in even larger numbers.

That sounds pretty bad, and (spoiler!) it is. But the APA’s 2015 Stress in America report shows Americans are actually less worried about money than we’ve been at any time since 2007, when the survey began. Back then, 74% of Americans said money concerns caused them stress; that number peaked at 76% in 2010 before dropping 12 points over the next four years.

150204_EM_StressMoney_Chart
American Psychological Association

But just because our collective stress about money is decreasing doesn’t mean it isn’t causing problems. Almost 1 in 5 said they had either considered skipping or skipped going to the doctor for needed care due to financial concerns, and the APA says the average reported stress level—4.9 out of 10—is still higher than the 3.7 the group believes is healthy.

Diminishing overall stress also appears to have exposed a gap between richer and poorer Americans. In 2007, low-income households (those making less than $50,000 a year) and high-income households both reported the same levels of stress—6.2 out of 10. But in 2014, low-income households reported higher levels of stress (5.2) than wealthier ones (4.7).

For the APA, the results reinforce what they already knew: Stress is a major problem for the American people. Worse, high stress appears to have become the new normal. “Despite good news that overall stress levels are down, it appears the idea of living with stress higher than what we believe to be healthy and dealing with it in ineffective ways continues to be embedded in our culture,” said APA CEO Norman B. Anderson. He warns that all Americans, particularly those in groups most affected by stress, “need to address this issue sooner or later in order to better their health and well-being.”

TIME Mental Health/Psychology

Millennials and Gen Xers Feel the Most Stress About Money

511823541
John Holcroft—Getty Images/Ikon Images

Even with the improving economy, one population of Americans is more stressed about financial concerns than they were nearly a decade ago

In the latest survey of Stress in America conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA), money remained the top causes of stress reported by a group of more than 3,000 adults aged 18 years or older, followed by work, family and health concerns. Overall, the average level of stress, reported on a 10-point scale, is at its lowest since the APA began the survey in 2007.

But 29% of participants said that their anxiety over money matters increased in the past year, and younger generations and parents seem to be feeling the pinch most. More than one-third of parents reported higher stress levels over the past year (at 5.8) compared to non-parents (at 4.4).

Millennials and Gen Xers (aged 18 to 49 years) felt more stress than the average American about money. “Where Millennials are concerned, we know that the cost of education is pretty high in this country, and student debt is higher,” says Katherine Nordal, executive director of Professional Practice at the APA. “The job market until recently has also been problematic.”

The gap between financial stress between lower and higher income families is also widening; in 2007 both groups reported the same amount of anxiety over money, but in the current survey, those making less than $50,000 a year were twice as likely as those in higher income groups to feel stress about financial matters all or most of the time.

While the overall rate of stress about money is declining, Nordal says the trends involving younger generations and lower income households is concerning, because strategies for coping with stress aren’t improving, despite greater awareness of its health risks. One in five Americans said they did not have anyone to turn to for emotional support; 27% of those in lower income households fall into this category, compared to 17% of those in higher income groups. “Good support systems seem to be good for reducing stress — it’s not an inoculation against stress but it can be a stress reduction factor,” says Nordal.

Lack of emotional support can also drive people to unhealthy coping mechanisms, including over-eating, not sleeping well and becoming more sedentary. Forty-two percent of respondents said they indulged in such behaviors to cope with their stress in the past month. “Excessive alcohol use, smoking, eating the wrong kinds of foods, not exercising and being too sedentary we know are behaviors that lead to disease states, and unhealthy states,” says Nordal. “And these health risks are very real. We’d like to see people doing things that are more proactive to cope with stress, such as meditation, relaxation techniques and exercise.”

TIME psychology

3 Steps to Minimizing Stress at Work

man-stressed-sitting-desk
Getty Images

Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

1) Know What Really Works

Most of the things you instinctively do to relieve stress don’t work.

Via The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do To Get More of It:

The APA’s national survey on stress found that the most commonly used strategies were also rated as highly ineffective by the same people who reported using them. For example, only 16 percent of people who eat to reduce stress report that it actually helps them. Another study found that women are most likely to eat chocolate when they are feeling anxious or depressed, but the only reliable change in mood they experience from their drug of choice is an increase in guilt.

So what does work?

According to the American Psychological Association, the most effective stress-relief strategies are exercising or playing sports, praying or attending a religious service, reading, listening to music, spending time with friends or family, getting a massage, going outside for a walk, meditating or doing yoga, and spending time with a creative hobby. (The least effective strategies are gambling, shopping, smoking, drinking, eating, playing video games, surfing the Internet, and watching TV or movies for more than two hours.)

2) It’s All About A Feeling Of Control

As is often said, stress isn’t about what happens to you, it’s how you react to it. This is true.

We’re not as stressed when we feel in control. Again, the emphasis is on feel. Even illusory feelings of control can eliminate stress. (This is the secret to why idiots and crazy people may feel far less stress than those who see a situation clearly.)

Anything that increases your perception of control over a situation — whether it actually increases your control or not — can substantially decrease your stress level.

Via Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long:

Steve Maier at the University of Boulder, in Colorado, says that the degree of control that organisms can exert over something that creates stress determines whether the stressor alters the organism’s functioning. His findings indicate that only uncontrollable stressors cause deleterious effects. Inescapable or uncontrollable stress can be destructive, whereas the same stress that feels escapable is less destructive, significantly so… Over and over, scientists see that the perception of control over a stressor alters the stressor’s impact.

Why do people choose to become entrepreneurs when working for yourself often means more hours for less money? Control:

A number of studies show “work-life balance” as the main reason people start their own small businesses. Yet small business owners often work more hours, for less money, than in corporate life. The difference? You are able to make more of your own choices.

Do things that increase your control of a situation ahead of time. According to one study, the stress management technique that worked best was deliberately planning your day so that stress is minimized.

The best way to reduce job stress is to get a clear idea of what is expected of you.

The trick to not worrying about work stuff while at home is to make specific plans to address concerns before you leave the office.

3) You Need Some Stress To Be Your Best

Heavy time pressure stresses you out and kills creativity. On the other hand, having no deadlines is not optimal either. Low-to-moderate time pressure produces the best results.

Via The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work:

If managers regularly set impossibly short time-frames or impossibly high workloads, employees become stressed, unhappy, and unmotivated—burned out. Yet, people hate being bored. it was rare for any participant in our study to report a day with very low time pressure, such days—when they did occur—were also not conducive to positive inner work life. In general, then, low-to-moderate time pressure seems optimal for sustaining positive thoughts, feelings, and drives.

In his book The Art of Learning, Josh Waitzkin discusses one of the key elements that pro athletes like Jordan use to perform at their peak: spontaneous relaxation.

“…one of the most telling features of a dominant performer is the routine use of recovery periods.”

They’re not Zen masters who experience no stress. Far from it. But they’ve taught themselves to turn it on and off. The pros are able to fully relax during the briefest periods of rest. This prevents them from burning out during hours of play.

Via The Art of Learning:

The physiologists at LGE had discovered that in virtually every discipline, one of the most telling features of a dominant performer is the routine use of recovery periods. Players who are able to relax in brief moments of inactivity are almost always the ones who end up coming through when the game is on the line… Remember Michael Jordan sitting on the bench, a towel on his shoulders, letting it all go for a two-minute break before coming back in the game? Jordan was completely serene on the bench even though the Bulls desperately needed him on the court. He had the fastest recovery time of any athlete I’ve ever seen.

One Last Thing:

I’m stressed RIGHT NOW!!! What’s the quickest, easiest thing to do?!?!?!

Watching a video of a cute animal can reduce heart rate and blood pressure in under a minute.

Via Richard Wiseman’s excellent book 59 Seconds: Change Your Life in Under a Minute:

In an innovative study, Deborah Wells examined whether merely looking at a video of an animal can have the same type of calming and restorative effects as those created by being in its company… compared to the two control conditions, all three animal videos made the participants feel much more relaxed. To help reduce your heart rate and blood pressure in less than a minute, go online and watch a video of a cute animal.

Here you go:

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

Join over 151,000 readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.

Related posts:

How To Stop Being Lazy And Get More Done – 5 Expert Tips

6 Things The Most Productive People Do Every Day

New Harvard Research Reveals A Fun Way To Be More Successful

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Careers & Workplace

Try This Life-Changing Stress Hack for a More Relaxed 2015

woman-lying-down-yoga-mat
Getty Images

Have you heard of the Alexander technique?

Have you ever looked at a picture of Atlas, the mythological Greek figure carrying the weight of the planet on his shoulders and thought, Yeah, I can relate?

As an entrepreneur, it often feels like you have the weight of the world on your shoulders. Once you become the leader of a company, you feel a responsibility to employees, their families, your customers and your family. You worry about not having enough money for payroll or rent at the end of the month, the irate customer, maxed-out credit cards, creating new business opportunities and fitting in a life outside the office.

Yes, entrepreneurship is stressful and it can beat you down sometimes. But your company is part of who you are. So to become the best version of yourself, find a way to destress and regain some balance in your life.

Over the years, I’ve dealt with stress in many ways: running, exercising, visualization, drinking inordinate amounts of chamomile tea and even laughing it off with Family Guy. All these things helped me feel calmer for a while, but none has contributed to my success quite like practicing the Alexander technique.

Developed in the late 19th century by Frederick Matthias Alexander, the Alexander technique involves mindfully trying to rid the body of harmful muscular and mental tension to overcome stress, redirect energy, correct bad posture, eliminate back pain and improve mental clarity. This practice is time-efficient, portable and easy to learn.

I began practicing the Alexander technique with an instructor about a year ago. Since then, I’ve had noticeably better vocal control and inflection. I feel that this practice has improved my public-speaking skills and helped me think more clearly in tense or high-pressure situations. And it’s helped me find balance in life. Each session lets me relax my body, center my mind and achieve a sense of peace, despite my high-stress entrepreneurial endeavors.

The Alexander technique can work for anyone in any industry and it’s easy to get started.

Related: Conquer Stress and Master Sleep for a Richer Life

1. Find an instructor.

I strongly recommend finding a certified instructor to guide you through your first few attempts. As is the case for yoga, the Alexander technique is something you’ll be able to do on your own after a few well-explained sessions.

2. Master lie downs.

The Alexander technique consists of two basic components, the first of which is the lie down. To give it a try, sit two or three books on a relatively hard surface and lie down with your head on the books.

Put your hands on your chest with your knees up and feet flat on the ground. Your eyes can be open or closed, but don’t go to sleep. Breathe normally and release yourself into gravity’s hold, letting your body’s weight settle into the floor. This will rest and realign the parts of your body that are constantly being used for stabilization when you’re upright.

Related: During Your Next Launch, Don’t Neglect Self-Care

3. Release your tension.

The second component of the Alexander technique is learning how to release the neck. You aim to release (not just relax) the atlantooccipital joint that controls the muscular tension throughout the entire body.

While in the lie-down position, feel the muscles at the top of your spine by placing your fingers in your ears and thinking about the joint between your fingers (a little bump where your spine connects). Then, focus on releasing all muscular tension in that area while breathing deeply. Once an instructor guides you through this move a few times, you’ll be able to do it easily on your own.

There are many ways to destress, but I’ve never found a method as effective and far-reaching as the Alexander technique. By learning how to relax the muscles throughout your entire body on command, you can also gain control of your voice, posture, energy and overall stress. It’s the one tool that might truly help you take the weight off your shoulders and become a better, more successful you.

Related: The Physical and Emotional Truths of Entrepreneurship

This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com.

TIME mental health

The Link Between Mental Trauma and Diabetes

BC5544-001
Getty Images

Women with more PTSD symptoms appear to be at a higher risk for Type 2 diabetes, a new study says

Women with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have a two-fold increased risk for type 2 diabetes, according to a new study.

“When we are under stress we are more likely to get sick, but women with PTSD are in this extreme stress response a lot of the time,” says study author Karestan Koenen, an epidemiology professor at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. The new study, published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, looked at 49,739 women participating in the Nurses’ Health Study II to assess the link between PTSD symptoms and type 2 diabetes over 22 years. They found that women with the most symptoms had double the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and that the association increased based on the number of symptoms women experienced.

“It’s so important that people understand PTSD isn’t just in veterans. Most PTSD is just in regular people in the community,” says Koenen. One of the most surprising findings in the study was that using antidepressants and having a higher body mass index (BMI) accounted for about half of the increased risk for type 2 diabetes in women with PTSD. Past research has linked PTSD to having a higher BMI, with some research suggesting that elevated stress response could result in cravings for highly caloric food and lead to weight gain.

The antidepressant link is the most unexpected. An obvious explanation for the link is that some antidepressants cause weight gain, but the researchers argue weight gain isn’t caused by all antidepressants and therefore cannot account for all of the effect. “It’s probably one of the most interesting findings and I don’t have a good explanation for it,” says Koenen.

The researchers say it’s possible that extreme stress can cause changes in the regulation of the body’s immune system, inflammation markers and hormones, which could contribute to the onset of type 2 diabetes.

Ultimately, Koenen believes the study is important because it provides further evidence that medicine can benefit from a more holistic look at patients that includes not just disease but also mental health and psychology. “Our health care system acts like the brain and the body are two separate things. This is just one of hundreds of studies that have now shown that mental health affects physical health and mental health,” she says. “We need a more integrated medical system where the mind and body are worked on together.”

Koenen, who used to work in veterans affairs, says veterans have been asking for such care for a long time, with studies and surveys showing patients often ask for alternative services like yoga. “Patients understand this but the medical system hasn’t caught up,” she says.

TIME psychology

12 Ways to Easily Eliminate Stress

chewed pencil
Getty Images

Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

  1. Remind yourself how unimportant your worries are in the big scheme of things.
  2. Making lots of decisions can burn you out. Automate as many things as you can.
  3. Watching a video of a cute animal can reduce heart rate and blood pressure in under a minute.
  4. Ladies, drink coffee. Guys, don’t.
  5. Another key element of stress is where you focus your attention. Think about benign outcomes or concentrate on the positive.
  6. According to one study, the stress management technique that worked best was deliberately planning your day so that stress is minimized. The trick to not worrying about work stuff while at home is to make specific plans to address concerns before you leave the office.
  7. The difference between a fun challenge and stressful work is often just a feeling of control. The best way to reduce job stress is to get a clear idea of what is expected of you. Stop working overtime; it’s not worth it.
  8. Art reduces stress in men. Good music can increase pain tolerance and decrease anxiety.Classical music is the most relaxing genre.
  9. Booze does reduce anxiety and punching things does make men feel better… which, frankly, explains a lot.
  10. If you have to worry, set aside a specific time during the day to do all your worrying. Before a stressful event write all your worries down.
  11. Understand the secrets to willpower, breaking bad habits, productivity, beating procrastination and achieving goals.
  12. No matter what happens, you will probably be fine.

Still stressed? Here are 15 more:

  1. Talk to yourself.
  2. Lean back instead of leaning forward.
  3. Have more sex.
  4. Watch comedy.
  5. Spend more time with friends.
  6. Be compassionate.
  7. Take fish oil.
  8. Stand up straight.
  9. Meditate.
  10. Garden.
  11. Chew gum.
  12. Smell vanilla.
  13. Nap.
  14. Eat salt.
  15. Spend time in nature.

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

Join over 151,000 readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.

Related posts:

6 Hostage Negotiation Techniques That Will Get You What You Want

How To Get People To Like You: 7 Ways From An FBI Behavior Expert

How To Stop Being Lazy And Get More Done – 5 Expert Tips

Read next: How to Read People Like Sherlock Holmes: 4 Insights From Research

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Mental Health/Psychology

How to Not Lose it When People Are Driving You Insane

108091785
Getty Images

Is your family already driving you insane? Read on

This holiday, make it a priority to not rip your hair out.

To help you survive the season, we asked psychologist Pauline Wallin, author of Taming Your Inner Brat, for some tips on how to avoid some of the most common pitfalls of the holidays. (But if Aunt Susie drinks too much egg nog, we can’t help you).

If your family is driving you crazy…
One of the best parts of the holidays can also be one of the worst parts of the holidays. Spending quality time with family doesn’t happen often for most of us, but with the expectations of the holidays and the increased amount of face time, it’s easy for someone to lose their lid. Here’s how to cool it.
For parents: You have guests coming, and the bums you call your children are doing a lousy job at cleaning. To avoid this stresser, lay out your expectations early. “When you feel like other people are driving you crazy, it’s often because they don’t have the same sense of urgency that you do,” says Wallin. Instead, tell your kids ahead of time that the house needs to be clean by 10 a.m., or that you are going to be stressed and would appreciate it if they stay out of your way. It’s an easy way to start out on the same page.
For kids and teens: If you really don’t want to go to Aunt Susie’s for dinner, get over it by finding a way to make it count. Think of it as a gift to your family to spend time with them without giving anyone ‘tude. If you’re really feeling irked, ask kindly for a little time alone. Go on a walk, read a book for an hour, or offer to get out of the house and grab groceries.

If someone spills something or you burn the roast…
Take a picture of it. Seriously, pull out that smart phone and snap a photo of the disaster. “If you’re going to laugh about it later, you might as well laugh about it now,” says Wallin. No dinner party is immune to a rip or spill or the tragic loss of the Christmas goose. Laugh it off, post it to Instagram, and move on.

If you’re stressed about the cost of all those presents…
Do you remember what you received for Christmas last year? Probably not. Wallin says one of the most common stressers she sees among patients around the holidays is financial stress. “But never once have I heard someone say, ‘I’ve never forgiven them for not getting me the new iPhone.'” We tend to put a lot of weight on the presents, but guests are more likely to remember the moments shared than what was in the stocking. So try not to stress about finding the perfect gift, and there’s zero shame in bargain hunting.

If your to-do list alone is freaking you out…
This year, instead of making a “To Do” list, make a “To Don’t” list. “Decide what you’re not going to do, and just let it go,” says Wallin. “It’s a tremendous sense of relief.” If you can’t figure out when you’re going to have time for caroling, just skip it. If you don’t have time (or don’t want to make time) for home-baked cookies, don’t both! You don’t have to do everything. If it’s more stress than it’s worth, it won’t be that fun.

If you’re not feeling any warm, fuzzy, holiday feelings…
Instead of scrambling to make everything perfect, carve out time to just sit and talk to friends and family. “We get so busy that we forget the holidays are about people,” says Wallin. Get everyone off the grid and ask for cell phones to be put away while you play a game or watch a movie. Even just taking 20 minutes to sit with a family member you don’t regularly see is a great way to remember to the real meaning of the season.

TIME advice

7 Tips for Managing Holiday Stress

keep-calm-carry-on-ornament
Getty Images

Keep calm, carry on, and let go

It’s that time of year again. Between the endless parties and obligations, visiting with friends and family (and sometimes avoiding certain friends and family), not to mention navigating decadent table spreads and endless office baked goods, it’s no wonder we sometimes dread the holiday season. Rest assured, there is a way you can manage the inevitable holiday stress and glide to a new year with balance, poise, and at least most of your sanity in tact.

The key thing for managing holiday stress is to realize that we often can’t change the situations around us, but that we can change how we interact and respond in these situations. Which means, proper stress management starts with you…

1. Take care of yourself.

Know your limits. Make sure to get enough sleep, drink water, balance your eating (which of course includes a cookie or two!) and most important, keep your sense of humor handy. This is supposed to be a joyful season, full of good times and many laughs. Sometimes that means laughing at yourself.

2. Say no.

Thank you so much for the invitation, but we have another engagement.”

Now isn’t that a nice way of saying no? It’s likely that you won’t be able to–or want to–attend every party or engagement that you’re invited to, so here’s a chance to prioritize which ones you’d like to attend and politely decline (with appropriate notice) the rest.

MORE Merry Stress-mess: How to Not Go Crazy During the Holidays

3. Keep calm, carry on, and let go.

You’ve likely seen these “Keep Calm, Carry On” signs everywhere. As simple as they might seem, they’re such a good reminder. One of the best tactics for holiday stress management is to learn what you can control and let go of the rest. Don’t let the hustle and bustle of the holidays overwhelm you. Keep calm in the moment by taking a deep breath, thinking before you speak, and remembering that whatever’s stressing you right this moment is not likely going to matter in one hour, or even one year. Keep your focus on the joy of the season and have fun.

4. Have a little grace.

As women, we put so much focus on small details and often lose track of the overall picture. I can bet you a nicely frosted gingerbread cookie that no one’s going to be focusing on those little details half as much as you are. Let go of control and have grace with yourself. Everyone forgets to serve a dish, or perfectly wrap some gift. Repeat mantra from above: “Keep calm, carry on.

5. Accept help.

Just like you don’t have to control everything, you don’t have to do it on your own. Let someone bring a dish to the dinner party, and then let your friends help you do the dishes when they meal’s over.

6. Get rid of useless worry.

There’s a difference between worry and planning. Trust that you’ll handle situations that might come up and focus on what’s truly in your control. Perhaps you could mentally walk through a situation that could be stressful and practice your response. Plan ahead what you can to minimize stress.

The last step for stress management ends with you…

MORE How to Prepare for the Holiday Vacation

7. Choose.

Everyone finds themselves in situations that aren’t preferable. Cue the awkward family dinner or significant other’s office Christmas party. In those uncomfortable moments, you choose your memories. How much fun you have is entirely up to you. You can focus on all the reasons why you’d rather be at home with some spiked eggnog in pajamas, or you can be present in the moment and make the choice to put forth an effort and find the good in your current situation.

So when you start to feel overwhelmed by too much family pressure or obligation, all the little details or overwhelming stress of presents and parties, remember that this is the season of joy. Trust that you can and will navigate holiday stress by taking care of yourself, setting and knowing your boundaries, and choosing how you respond.

This article originally appeared on Levo.com

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com