Common Stress Reactions and How to Gain Control of Your Life

Stress is no laughing matter. In a January 2021 survey, 41.1% of Americans said they had symptoms of an anxiety or depressive disorder. That’s up from just 11% in 2019.

Dealing with stress isn’t as simple as “chilling out.” Stress reactions can induce extreme pain and emotional duress, and they can derail your life. Yet you can take steps to get help and move on from stress. 

What are the most common stress reactions? How does stress trigger these reactions? What should you do to cope with stress and improve your mental health?

Answer these questions and you can live a healthier and happier life in no time. Here is your quick guide.



Headaches are one of the most common physical reactions to stress. Stress triggers a fight or flight response, which floods the brain and tissues with chemicals. These chemicals can tighten the blood vessels in the head and lead to pain. 

Removing yourself from the stressful situation can decrease your headache. You should also try massaging your temples and the back of your neck to relieve your muscles. You can take an over-the-counter medication, but you should only do so when you can deal with the side effects.

Stress Eating 

Stress or emotional eating is a common stress reaction. Some people may eat to reward themselves for dealing with stress or comfort themselves after a stressful day. Other people learn emotional eating from their childhood, as their parents give them sweets as rewards. 

You should talk to a therapist so you start understanding emotional eating. You can identify the triggers that cause you to eat and find a new way to cope with stress. Many people like making art or reading books instead of eating.

Suicidal Thoughts

Suicidal thoughts are one of the most extreme reactions to stress. They can occur alongside the symptoms of depression or anxiety disorders, but they can also occur independently. Someone may want to end their own life to end the stress they are dealing with.

Some people act on their thoughts, while others do not. Just having suicidal thoughts can cause a decline in self-esteem and make it harder to deal with stress productively. 

If you have suicidal thoughts, you should talk to someone about them. You may want to take antidepressants and try out talk therapy so you can identify the triggers for your thoughts. Journaling can also give you an outlet and make your emotions feel less intense.

The Most Common Stress Reactions

Stress reactions can be more complicated than they seem. Headaches occur due to chemical reactions inside the body. Stress eating can be a learned behavior from childhood, while suicidal thoughts can occur at any moment. 

However, all of these reactions have treatments. You should remove yourself from the stressful situation and talk to a mental health professional. You should find a productive way to channel your emotions, like making art or journaling. 

Dealing with stress requires knowing a lot of different things. Read more guides to stress by following our coverage.

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