Stress is a part of our everyday lives – it often seems as if no one is immune. But did you know that several years ago, the World Health Organization classified stress as a disease? It’s no secret that stress is a widespread condition that impacts people all over the world, from office workers to single parents. Feeling more stressed out than normal? You’ll be glad to hear that you’re not alone. Stress has been known to manifest itself in multiple short and long-term problems like fatigue, social isolation, and even skin issues like acne.
Most people know a little about the damaging effects of stress on both their physical and mental health, but most people see stress as a temporary setback and figure that it will eventually let up when things settle down. Whether you’ve recently been through a stressful period in your life or are in the midst of a swirling tornado of chaos right now, you may be experiencing some of the more common symptoms of stress without even realizing it.
So, how can we help? Let’s start with what you need to know about the various consequences of stress and how you can start managing it effectively, so you can begin living a healthier, happier, less stressful life.
Effects of Chronic Stress
Stress can come in many forms, and it often targets various areas of your mind and body. To effectively manage your stress, it’s crucial to recognize the signs of stress and the negative impacts it’s having on your life. So, let’s take a sneak peek at some of the more common physical and psychological symptoms to look out for.
If you’ve ever experienced pain or tension in your head or neck while you studied for a big exam or after your boss just assigned you a particularly heavy workload, it was most likely your body’s response to stress. Headaches and neck tension are quite common symptoms of both short and long-term stress. If you find that you have frequent headaches due to a demanding lifestyle, consider talking to your doctor about chronic stress and how to better manage the events of your daily life.
Acne is often one of the first symptoms of stress that people notice, in themselves or others. It’s obviously hard to miss, especially when it’s walking right across your face! When your skin starts breaking out, it’s often a direct response to oils and dirt building up on the facial skin. Cortisol, a hormone your body produces when under stress, triggers your sebaceous glands to produce more facial oil than normal which can result in unwanted acne that stresses you out even more!
It’s easy to blame low energy on a lack of sleep, but being tired constantly may also be a reaction to high stress levels. If you’re getting the recommended number of hours of sleep each night, but still feel exhausted throughout the day, you might have stress to blame. On top of stress-induced fatigue, it can also trigger insomnia which is really just adding insult to injury.
Some research has indicated that stress can contribute to certain digestive issues such as nausea, constipation, or diarrhea. In addition to short term symptoms, patients dealing with stress might have a higher risk of developingchronic digestive disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Some digestive issues may even be exacerbated by changes in appetite and eating habits, other common symptoms of stress.
If we change the scope over to consider longer term effects, stress can take a significant toll on your immune system, therefore reducing your body’s ability to fight off diseases. If you find yourself constantly battling stress and anxiety, you’re at a higher risk to catch a cold, the flu, or other illnesses.
Mental Health Problems
Unfortunately, in both the long and short-term, the effects of stress on your physical health are plentiful. However, just because we can’t see them doesn’t mean you shouldn’t also take the possible mental health effects seriously too. If left unchecked, stress can cause some serious damage. That’s why we want to make sure you have all the information you need to make good decisions.
The most widespread effect of stress on the mind comes with an increased risk of clinical anxiety and depression. After coping with stress for a prolonged period, you may notice that it’s harder to bounce back from the “emotional valleys” you find yourself in, day in and day out.
Strategies for Coping with Stress
Stress may be a constant and powerful force in your life, but it doesn’t have to dominate your well-being. So, how do you break the cycle? Here are a few simple steps you can take to start managing stress and begin living the happier, healthier, fuller life you deserve. Take back control by learning to stress less – sounds like a great new motto, now doesn’t it?
The positive effects of exercise have been studied extensively and for good reason. Leading an active lifestyle can reduce cortisol levels and cause your body to release endorphins, a hormone known for reducing pain and helping you feel better. As an added bonus, if you exercise outside, you can enjoy a little fun in the sun (and soak up some vitamin D) along the way.
Change Your Diet
Pay attention to what you put in your body. Healthy, well-balanced meals can help reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure, and strengthen your immune system. Healthy food choices can truly help shift you stress scale in the right direction!
If you are struggling with a mental health issue as a result of stress, try adding meditation to your daily regimen. Not only does meditating help you achieve a calmer state of mind, but it also trains your body to combat the negative effects of stress. Carve out a small chunk of your day to center yourself, breathe, and relax.
Talk to Others
Who knew the “gift of gab” could be a stress reliever? Honestly, just opening up to another person about your daily life can be an incredibly soothing and healing experience. Find someone you trust, and be honest with them about how you’re feeling. Not only can discussing your issues help you feel better, but you might help the other person feel better too and give them the opportunity to give you some advice. Professional counseling is also a healthful and helpful option.
Managing Stress for Optimal Health and Well-Being
Conquering stress may seem like a daunting task, but you are never alone. These are just some examples of strategies to help you take control of your life, but don’t hesitate to reach out to someone you trust and enlist the help of online resources to start minimizing the stress in your life, seeing the big picture, and enjoying a life filled with happiness and wellness once again.
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