Long-term stress can affect your body and health in surprising ways. We take a closer look.
Stress affects everyone at some point. Common sources of daily stress include work, school, and difficult relationships.
Stress can affect both your mind and body, causing physical symptoms as well as psychological discomfort.
While stress usually goes away after the stressful situation is resolved, it can become chronic. Chronic stress lasts weeks to months and increases a person’s risk for physical and mental health problems.
There are many ways to cope with, and even reduce, the amount of stress in your life. Here, we look at 10 important facts to know about stress.
If you have more breakouts when you’re stressed, it may not be a coincidence. Studies have found that acne may be linked with stress.
Stress can also trigger corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) and sebum — the oily substance on your skin — both of which can cause acne.
If you’re constantly getting sick, stress may be to blame.
In one study, a group of older adults was given the flu vaccine and researchers found that those under chronic stress had a weakened immune response to the vaccine. These results point to a possible association between stress and decreased immunity.
A summary of studies stated that past research has established that psychological stress weakens your immune system’s ability to fight infection. The authors found chronic stress could affect several immune factors, increasing your risk of various physical and mental conditions, including diabetes and certain cancers.
Some studies have found that stress can affect your digestive system, leaving you with an upset stomach or issues like constipation or diarrhea.
Stress may also be related to constipation. An older 2010 study found that constipation was higher in children who were exposed to stressful events, such as failing an exam or a separation from a friend.
When you’re stressed you may notice things like brain fog or difficulty making decisions. That’s because stress affects your brain — including your memory. This includes the ability to recall details in the moment or remember things long-term.
When you’re experiencing a stressful event or chronic stress, your brain may be overstimulated, causing you to forget what happened. Stress also causes your body to release hormones that make it difficult for your brain to create new memories.
The impact can be long-term. Chronic stress is linked to a smaller hippocampus, the memory center of the brain.
Chronic stress can take a major toll. It can even impact how long you live.
People with anxiety disorders have a significant increase in mortality risk compared to the general population, according to a
Many people think about stress as negatively impacting their life. But not all stress is bad, and some can benefit you.
This type of good stress is called eustress. Eustress leads to a positive response rather than a negative one, like when you go on a first date or ride a roller coaster. This feeling is usually short-term and feels exciting or even motivating for people.
Long-term stress can play a key role in how you physically feel. While our bodies can handle some stress, chronic stress and worry may manifest in physical symptoms.
Common physical signs of stress include:
- muscle aches
- digestive issues
- racing heart
Stress triggers your fight, flight, freeze, or fawn response. While prioritizing body actions that help you survive a threat, your body and brain also dampen other bodily functions — like your libido. Chronic stress can also mentally and physically wear you out.
If you notice your sex drive takes a hit when you’re stressed, know that it’s common. Chronic stress can even cause lower testosterone levels and sperm production in males.
If you cope with allergies, you know how watery eyes and sneezing can make it tough to get through your day. This disruption in your life can feel stressful and that stress can make your allergies feel worse.
It isn’t just psychological stress that can amplify your allergy symptoms. Physical stress, like intense exercise, can also make your allergy symptoms feel worse. Doctors aren’t sure why but think your stress hormones may increase your immune system’s response to allergens.
Stress can have an impact on your menstrual cycle, according to
If stress affects your menstrual cycle, consider speaking with your doctor who can recommend ways to de-stress or prescribe something to help regulate your cycle.
Stress is common and affects everyone at some point in their lives. It’s usually short-term and its effects go away after the stressful situation is over. Long-term or chronic stress can impact your mental and physical health.
Researchers have also found some techniques are incredibly effective at reducing stress.
Diaphragmatic breathing can lower your pulse rate and blood pressure, and ward off other impacts of stress. To try this technique, inhale deeply through your nose, pause while contracting your abdomen, and finally exhale slowly out of your mouth.
You can read about other ways to relieve stress here.
If you or someone you know is having difficulty coping with stress it may be time to find a good therapist or practice coping techniques.