Stress is often described as a feeling of being overwhelmed, worried or run-down. Stress can affect people of all ages, genders and circumstances and can lead to both physical and psychological health issues. By definition, stress is any uncomfortable “emotional experience accompanied by predictable biochemical, physiological and behavioral changes.” Some stress can be beneficial at times, producing a boost that provides the drive and energy to help people get through situations like exams or work deadlines. However, an extreme amount of stress can have health consequences and adversely affect the immune, cardiovascular, neuroendocrine and central nervous systems.
How stress harms your health
In addition, an extreme amount of stress can take a severe emotional toll. While people can overcome minor episodes of stress by tapping into their body’s natural defenses to adapt to changing situations, excessive chronic stress, which is constant and persists over an extended period of time, can be psychologically and physically debilitating.
Unlike everyday stressors, which can be managed with healthy stress management behaviors, untreated chronic stress can result in serious health conditions including anxiety, insomnia, muscle pain, high blood pressure and a weakened immune system. Research shows that stress can contribute to the development of major illnesses, like heart disease, depression and obesity. Some studies have even suggested that unhealthy chronic stress management, like overeating “comfort” foods, has contributed to the growing obesity epidemic. Yet, despite its connection to illness, APA’s Stress in America survey revealed 33 percent of Americans never discuss ways to manage stress with their healthcare provider.
Chronic stress can occur in response to everyday stressors that are ignored or poorly managed, as well as to exposure to traumatic events. The consequences of chronic stress are serious, particularly as it contributes to anxiety and depression. People who suffer from depression and anxiety are at twice the risk for heart disease than people without these conditions. Additionally, research has shown there is an association between both acute and chronic stress and a person’s abuse of addictive substances. Stress Less
Managing your stress
Studies have also illustrated the strong link between insomnia and chronic stress. According to APA’s Stress in America survey, more than 40 percent of all adults say they lie awake at night due to stress. Experts recommend going to bed at a regular time each night, striving for at least seven to eight hours of sleep and eliminating distractions like television and computers from the bedroom.
Many Americans who experience prolonged stress are not making the lifestyle changes necessary to reduce stress and ultimately prevent health problems. Improving lifestyle and behavioral choices are essential steps toward increasing overall health and avoiding chronic stress. The key to managing stress is recognizing and changing the behaviors that cause it, but changing your behavior can be challenging. CBD Oil Testimonials (Hear it from Real People)
Taking one small step to reduce your stress and improve your emotional health, like going on a daily walk, can have a beneficial effect. Being active is a small but powerful change you can make to manage stress. Physical activity increases your body’s production of feel-good endorphins, a type of neurotransmitter in the brain, and helps in treating mild forms of depression and anxiety. In addition, eating a healthy diet and enhancing both the amount and quality of your sleep may be beneficial.
But remember, if a high stress level continues for a long period of time, or if potential problems from stress continue to interfere with activities of daily living, it is important to reach out to a licensed mental health professional, like a psychologist. Research has shown that chronic stress can be treated with appropriate interventions like lifestyle and behavior change, therapy, and in some situations, medication. AA psychologist can help you ovecome the barriers that are stopping you from living a healthy life, manage stress effectively and help identify behaviors and situations that are contributing to your consistently high stress level. Are you Suffering From Low Magnesium?
Special thanks to Mary K. Alvord, PhD, Karina W. Davidson, PhD, Jennifer F. Kelly, PhD, ABPP, Kevin M. McGuiness, PhD, MS, ABPP-CH, and Steven Tovian, PhD, ABPP, who assisted with this article.