Stress Damages Your Health: Here’s How to Stop It

A man is standing in front of a mirror, rubbing his head, stressed out.
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Stress is a part of life. We all feel it. Negative stress that you experience frequently can be physically, mentally and emotionally taxing. But not all stress is bad.

Some short-term, temporary stress can be positive and beneficial in helping you reach a deadline, complete a task quickly or make a decision. This type of stress clears quickly causing no real health issues. Negative stress seems constant, often occurring on a daily basis. How you manage that stress, and release the negativity from your life, can have a direct impact on your quality of life.

Common Causes of Stress

Chronic stress can happen over long periods of time or in short bursts throughout your day. Common causes include:

  • Always thinking the worst will happen
  • Being late to work or appointments
  • Conflicts with others such as your spouse, children or other family member
  • Death of a loved one
  • Feeling angry, frustrated or tense all the time
  • Financial problems
  • Getting stuck in traffic
  • Lack of confidence
  • No down time for stress relief
  • Taking on too many responsibilities

Symptoms of Stress

Negative stress can manifest itself in many ways. You may feel overwhelmed, depressed and not in control of your life. If you have any of these symptoms, please take care of yourself and talk with your doctor. Commons reactions to stressors in your life include:

  • Anxiety
  • Fear of the future
  • Feeling numb
  • Feeling you’re not in control
  • Headaches, back pains or stomach problems
  • Inability or difficulty making decisions
  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs
  • Irritability and tension
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Nightmares
  • Sadness or depression that doesn’t go away
  • Shock or disbelief
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Trouble concentrating

Effects of Long-Term Stress on Your Health

Negative stress adds up. Whether you experience frequent bouts of short-term stress or chronic, long-term stressors, you’re likely to end up with health problems. Here are ways stress can affect your health:

  • Weakened Immune System: Chronic stress can suppress or weaken your immune system and leave you vulnerable to illness and viral infections.
  • Asthma: Stress causes your body to release antihistamines that may result in triggering bronchoconstriction if you suffer from asthma.
  • Diabetes: Stress may increase your risk for diabetes mellitus, especially if you are overweight as stress alters your body’s insulin needs.
  • Heart Problems: Stress can lead to atherosclerosis (a buildup of plaque in your arteries) causing circulatory problems which can lead to heart attack or stroke. Your risk for heart disease increases as stress releases unhealthy levels of cortisol and adrenaline. Stress also increases blood pressure and puts you at risk for heart attack.
  • Gastrointestinal Distress: Stress interferes with the concentration of acid in the stomach which may lead to ulcers or ulcerative colitis.
  • Obesity: Stress may cause an increase of the glucocorticoid stress hormone “cortisol” which plays a significant role in abdominal obesity.
  • Fertility Problems: Many women with elevated levels of stress, anxiety and depression report problems with fertility. It is not clear if stress directly causes infertility, but it does seem to play a role.

Ways You Can Manage Your Stress

Learn your stressors, so you can regain control of your physical, mental and emotional well-being by taking these steps.

Get Organized and Create a Daily Routine

Organization and a consistent routine can allow you to feel more confident and ready to face the day. Allow yourself time at the beginning of each day to reflect positively on the events of your upcoming day and the challenges you may face.

  • Create a calendar
  • Make daily to-do lists
  • Develop a bedtime routine — same time, same environment and same activities

Stress Relief Techniques

Some stress can’t be avoided or anticipated. But when you begin to feel stressed, there are some things you can do to help relieve it:

  • Keep a journal
  • Practice deep breathing
  • Make time for an activity you love
  • Speak with your doctor or therapist
  • Spend time with family and friends

Take Control of Your Stress

Learn your stressors. Manage your responses to stress and feel empowered to make positive changes that will improve your whole health. If you’re feeling stressed, know that we’re here to help. Learn more about our whole-person wellness care program and find a provider near you.

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