The car broke down, the babysitter is late and you just remembered you forgot to pay the bills. You’re stressed out.

Stress is a reality for many people. There are so many things to juggle on a daily basis that it’s not uncommon to feel stressed. After all, stress is a natural biological response to environmental challenges, and let’s face it – some days there seems to be an endless supply of challenges. But you’re not alone. More than 40 percent of adults say their stress has increased over the past five years. Both men and women are equally prone to stress. Simply, the more responsibilities you take on, the more likely you open yourself up to experiencing stress.

But how do you know the difference between stress and a medical condition? Stress can manifest itself in many different ways. Sometimes headaches, problems with sleeping or chest pains may be symptoms of stress, especially after all medical conditions are ruled out.

Identifying and managing stress starts with knowing your own body and health conditions and recognizing the triggers. Such as:

1. Traumatic events

The death of a loved one, loss of a job or marital problems all have the potential to trigger stress but it’s not often as obvious that everyday challenges of work and home life can do the same.

2. Unexplained ailments

Generally healthy people, usually don’t know its stress that may be causing an ailment they are experiencing, such as a rash or a digestive issue. When we really look at a patient’s history we get a clearer view of the person’s life.

3. Bad habits

Stress masquerades as bad eating habits and can lead to sudden weight gain or weight loss. Some people gravitate towards eating to relieve stress, enjoying for the moment something that tastes good in an effort to try to make themselves feel better. Others stop eating because their stomach feels like it’s in knots.

4. Deteriorating health

People with pre-existing conditions, such as anxiety, hypertension or diabetes, can aggravate those conditions and make them worse with stress. For instance, if a person suffers from diabetes and it is under control with medications and all of a sudden a higher dose of medication is needed to control the condition, it could be a sign that the stress level of the person needs to be assessed to determine if medically something has changed or if the changes are a result of stress.

But all stress is not bad. It can be used as a motivator.

Getting worked-up about a job interview or passing an exam may drive a person to prepare better or study harder for that one-time event. It’s when that type of reaction happens all of the time that it may be a signal that stress has become a problem and needs to be acknowledged and managed. The sooner you manage stress the better it is for you and your family. If you believe you are suffering from the negative effects of stress, do your best to take active steps to manage it. Here are some tips:

1. Exercise and sleep

A huge first step in managing stress is just taking care of your body. Exercise is a known stress reliever and it will also help you sleep better. The more well-rested you are the better you are going to be at handling everyday challenges.

2. Balance your to-do list

Realizing you can only do so much in any given day and trying not to take on many tasks in one day will help you avoid feeling overwhelmed and it is also a good way to manage stress.

3. Talk it out

Therapists can also help you find coping mechanisms to avoid getting into a panic mode. It’s important to know your own limitations and not compare yourself to others. If stress becomes chronic, over many months, in your day-to-day life and other people are noticing that you seem frazzled, there are many options to consider such as behavioral modifications, therapy sessions or medications.

Like with any medical condition, the sooner you identify and take action on stress, the better the results. Managing stress is doable and once under control the peace of mind and happiness you derive from everyday activities will be worth the effort.