The Long-Term Effects of Chronic Stress: How It Hurts Your Health

Many of us have experienced stress at different times in our lives. In particular, acute stress which is a physical and psychological reaction to a temporary event. Naturally, once this event has passed or the situation is resolved, the associated anxiety usually fades away. But, when stress lingers, transforming our feelings of being overwhelmed and pressured into a constant state, it evolves into chronic stress.

What Causes Chronic Stress?

Any situation that stresses you over a prolonged period can cause chronic stress. This includes:

  •  High-pressure jobs
  • Relationship problems
  • Financial difficulties
  • Health scares

These daily challenges can lead to constant worry and anxiety, significantly impacting your physical and mental health. In contrast, acute stress arises from short-lived situations such as:

  • Taking an exam
  • Participating in a sporting event
  • An encounter with the police
  • Arguing with a partner

These stressors are temporary, and the associated stress disappears after the event, serving as the body’s natural response to help you manage the situation.

What are the Symptoms of Chronic Stress?

Chronic stress consistently makes you feel overwhelmed, with cognitive, emotional, physical, and behavioural repercussions. While you might not experience every symptom, the relentless feeling of being drained could lead to several issues:

  • Tiredness
  • Insomnia
  • Lack of energy
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Changes in appetite
  • Behavioural changes
  • Frequent illness
  • Difficulty concentrating

Being caught in a cycle of chronic stress can impact every aspect of your life, including relationships, work, and family, and could potentially lead to more severe health conditions. Following an online clinical counseling masters program could offer strategies and insights to better manage these symptoms and improve overall well-being.

What are the Long-Term Effects of Chronic Stress on the Body?

When the body is in a constant state of stress, everything falls out of balance and it can’t function properly leading to more long-term effects:

  • There’s a higher risk of developing high blood pressure, making you more susceptible to heart attacks and strokes.
  • Your immune system stops functioning properly making you more vulnerable to illness and viruses. It might feel like you are constantly ill because you catch everything that’s going around.
  • Constant stress means your muscles are always tense, leading to back and shoulder pain, or tension headaches and you may have to resort to pain medication. This raises the risk of drug dependence.
  • Extreme weight changes—either gain or loss—can harm your health. Obesity can lead to high cholesterol, increased blood pressure, and heart disease, while significant weight loss can result in unhealthy muscle and bone density loss. Nutrient deficiencies from either can cause further complications. These weight issues may sometimes be symptomatic of thyroid problems, another effect of chronic stress.
  • Chronic stress can cause prolonged periods of depression, making it challenging to perform everyday tasks such as eating healthily, getting regular exercise and fresh air, maintaining routine hygiene practices, or keeping up with friends and family.

Chronic stress affects people differently, but recognising these signs in either yourself or someone you love is the first step toward finding the right treatment.

What is the Treatment for Chronic Stress?

There are three main approaches to treating chronic stress, depending on your circumstances:

  1. Lifestyle Changes: This involves adopting healthier habits, like improving your diet and becoming more physically active, to help lead a stress-free life.
  2. Psychotherapy: Options include cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), hypnosis, and alternative methods such as massage therapy or reiki, aiming to address the psychological aspects of stress.
  3. Medication: Depending on your symptoms, your doctor may prescribe medication to help deal with the anxiety or depression that can sometimes arise from chronic stress.

How Can I Avoid Chronic Stress?

To avoid chronic stress, consider the following simple yet effective strategies:

  • Change Your Situation: Alter the circumstances causing your chronic stress. This could mean changing jobs or leaving a toxic relationship. Prioritising your health is essential. Try to create a stress-free environment where you can stay healthy and happy.
  • Learn Relaxation Techniques: Engage in mindfulness practices or other relaxation methods. Meditation, yoga, and breathing exercises are excellent for calming your mind when you’re on the verge of feeling overwhelmed. Writing in a journal can also be a therapeutic way to stay grounded and process your emotions.
  • Exercise Regularly: Choose a physical activity you enjoy to lead a more active life. Exercise boosts your mood by triggering the release of endorphins, enhancing your sense of well-being and confidence.
  • Connect with Nature: Spend time outdoors and breathe in the fresh air. Being in nature encourages you to live in the moment and can significantly reduce stress. When combined with exercise, like a brisk walk, the benefits are even greater.
  • Eat a Balanced Diet: Focus on a diet rich in fresh produce and limit your sugar intake. Moderation is key, and drinking plenty of water is also important to stay hydrated.
  • Find Joy: Incorporate activities into your life that bring you happiness and laughter. Whether it’s a new hobby, quality time with loved ones, or enjoying a good book or movie, make time for things that uplift you.

Chronic stress is a serious health problem and should be addressed immediately. While acute stress is the body’s natural response to immediate challenges, it’s vital to prevent it from escalating. Be proactive in recognising the signs and seeking help when needed.

Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:April 9, 2024

Recent Posts

Related Posts