Work, children, significant others, sleep patterns, exercise habits, diet, finances, health conditions, family dynamics and many other things can affect our stress levels.
Stress is unavoidable. Things that happen to you, around you, to those you love, and some things you do to yourself can all add strain to your body. The human body is designed to react to experiencing stress.
You can experience good or bad forms of stress due to your environment, your body and your thoughts. Stress can come in positive forms, like what may result from a job promotion. Stress can also be negative, such as when we face continuous challenges without relief or relaxation between them, and can then affect our health in extremely negative ways.
Here are ten ways stress can affect you:
1. Emotional Health
High levels of stress can be detrimental to your emotional and mental well-being. Those suffering extreme or chronic stress are prone to emotional outbursts, inability to regulate their emotions, depression and anxiety – which can lead to suicide or long term disability.
2. Promotion of Disease
Cancers, lung diseases, liver issues, diabetes and arthritis can all be attributed (in large or small ways) to long term stress on your mind and body.
Stress affects your mental health, which in turn can affect how you relate to the people in your life. Chronic stress has been linked to low libido, impotence – and even fertility issues.
4. Dental Health
Many people suffering from high stress levels experience dental issues. Teeth grinding and jaw clenching are very common when under stress. These lead to jaw pain, tooth pain, tooth decay and even gum disease.
5. Cardiovascular Issues
Stress hormones have a drastic effect on the heart. An increasing heart rate leads to constricted blood vessels in the heart muscles, which in turn makes the heart work harder than it should. This hard work leads to high blood pressure and can eventually cause severe cardiovascular conditions and disease. Heart attack and sudden death have been linked to instances of high stress on the body.
6. Weight Gain
Many of us respond to stress with food. Stress eating can lead to as much as a 40% increase in food intake. Foods high in fat and sugar may temporarily trick our brains into thinking that we are no longer stressed. When the ‘high’ from those foods wears off, we find ourselves back in the throes of stress, which often leads to grabbing more snacks – a vicious downward spiral. Large amounts of these sugary or high fat treats lead to excessive weight gain, increased abdominal fat and even diabetes.
7. Skin Conditions
Stress on the body shortens the telomeres on our chromosomes which causes new skin cells to grow more slowly. This leads to premature wrinkles, age spots, muscle weakness and poor eyesight. Stress also can cause new or worsening acne and it can exacerbate other existing skin conditions like eczema, rashes and hives.
8. Weakened Immune System
The immune system suffers greatly from prolonged and/or extreme stress, increasing the likelihood of colds, infections and a general sense of “not feeling well.”
9. Substance Addiction
Unfortunately, many stressed out individuals turn to various substances to combat their stress. Alcohol, tobacco, illegal drugs and even prescription drug abuse can be extremely harmful. Instead of providing the intended stress relief, these substances tend to maintain the body in a stressed state and cause additional problems.
10. Intestinal Issues
Severe stress is linked to Irritable Bowel Syndrome, ulcers, diarrhea and any number of other digestive issues and food allergies. The impulse to “stress eat” fatty foods throws the gut microbiome completely out of whack, causing numerous issues throughout the body.
If you are struggling with some of the physical symptoms of stress or anxiety, here are some common ways to combat the stress in your life and find a healthy balance:
- Yoga & other mindful movement
- Deep breathing
- Eating healthy
- Getting adequate sleep
- Spending time with people you enjoy
- Scheduling time to focus on your favorite hobbies
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