Researchers in the past decade have proven beyond all doubt that chronic stress is a root cause to many serious conditions and deadly diseases.
Modern life is flooded with stress that comes from many different directions. While some of it may seem out of your control (such as financial or physical stress), those feelings of powerlessness can produce even more stress.
It’s important to make a conscious effort to lower your mental and emotional stress to help you think clearly and figure out solutions that may currently feel out of reach.
Emotional & Mental Manifestations of Chronic Stress
- Inability to concentrate or poor memory
- Slower cognitive function (decision-making and logical thinking)
- Racing thoughts, restlessness, or constant worry
- Feeling overwhelmed or helpless
- Loss of interest in activities you once found pleasurable
- Mood swings that include sadness, frustration, or irritability
- Withdrawal from friends, family, or co-workers
Feeling out of control of your life increases your risk of eating disorders, sleep disorders, substance abuse, depression, and suicide.
Chronic stress can make you sick due to inflammation that rages through your body and leads to damage on the cellular level. Stress can manifest in exterior signs of aging that are clear in your skin, hair, and nails.
One of the most common symptoms is changes to your mood that may include anxiety or major depressive disorder (MDD). Over time, mental and emotional stress will begin to show itself physically, gradually wearing down your body in ways you might not recognize until you’re in distress.
Chronic inflammation caused by excess stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline is dangerous to your basic bodily functions.
A short bout of stress can be handled without long-term effects but stress that goes on and on without reprieve will send your immune system into overdrive and stimulate a chemical chain reaction.
Once your body is flooded with inflammatory hormones, every cell inside you is at risk and women are more drastically affected than men.
Physical Manifestations of Chronic Stress
- Difficulty sleeping (insomnia) or sleeping too much (hypersomnia)
- Tension headaches and migraines
- Pain and achiness in the bones, joints, and muscles
- Heart damage resulting in high blood pressure, heart attack, or stroke
- Higher cholesterol and blood sugar levels
- Digestive issues such as irregular bowel, cramping, heartburn, or nausea
- Eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia
- Compromised immunity and increased risk of infection and sickness
- Hair loss, dental pain or deterioration, or increased sensitivity of the skin
- Loss of sexual interest
- Erectile dysfunction
- Irregular menstruation or worsening PMS symptoms
- Fatigue or flagging energy that doesn’t improve with rest
Much of the stress that feels like it strikes in waves can have a lot to do with your own attitude or the actions of other people in your life. Toxic behaviors and relationships can make you feel trapped, attacked, and unable to focus.
Human connection plays a key role in human health, happiness, and even how long you live. The wrong human connections can have the opposite effect.
A few quick signs of a toxic person include selfishness (self-absorption), narcissism (know it all), the need to lie (even about trivial things), self-victimization (someone else is always to blame for problems), hyper-criticism of others (while glossing over their own flaws), and an inability to move on (holding onto to drama and negativity).
These behaviors can stem from people in romantic relationships, friendships, co-workers, or from you personally. That’s right…sometimes you are your own worst enemy.
Reducing stress could mean limiting your involvement with certain people in your life or it might mean rethinking how you view (and interact with) the world.
As more is learned about the devastating impact of stress on human health, learning how to control it in your own life is vital. Here are a few helpful ways to manage the stress you deal with in your daily life…
5 Tips to Manage Chronic Stress
- Eat and drink responsibly. You only have one body to live in. If you fill it with processed junk or deprive it of adequate hydration, it’s going to rebel. Water is critical to your survival as well as your ability to roll with whatever life throws at you. Choose as many natural foods as you can and give your body a variety of essential nutrients whenever possible!
- The “magic” of holistic therapy. There are few things as beneficial (without harmful side effects) as yoga, meditation, and aromatherapy. Learning how to deal with stress might mean thinking outside the box – but that doesn’t mean you have to start buying crystals in bulk (promise).
- Get up and dance. Turn on music you love and shake your booty. It doesn’t matter if you can dance! Your body is going to love the of effect of musical movement. Start with stretching to get your body loose and then boogie for ten minutes. Exercise releases endorphins (happy hormones) that not make you feel incredible, they lower inflammatory response.
- Get rid of toxic people and situations. Toxins found in food or daily lifestyle habits (such as tobacco, drugs, or excessive alcohol) are definitely damaging. However, one area that is often overlooked is our relationships and interactions with toxic people. Do a regular “wellness check” to evaluate how people around you make you feel. If they inspire feelings of guilt, fear, frustration, sadness, or anger, you might want to begin putting some distance between you. Toxic personalities can crush you by small increments. This can make it difficult to deal with the smaller stresses in your daily existence.
- Learn to breathe again. Stop right now and take a long, slow breath. Hold it for five seconds and exhale slowly. Repeat for one minute. In the hectic routine most of us live these days, it’s amazing that something as essential (and simple) as breathing is forgotten (or completely ignored). After your traffic-clogged commute to work, don’t get out of your car until you take one minute to breathe. Before a stressful meeting, take a minute to breathe. It’s okay to do that because you’re allowed to focus on what you need. Stop…and breathe.
You’ll always have low levels of acute stress – that spikes and then eases – that’s part of the crazy world we live in. Too many of us have become numb to the unending (chronic) stress that exists around and within us.
If stress is the new normal in your life…it’s time to make a fundamental change.
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 Science Daily: How Stress Influences Disease – Study Reveals Inflammation as the Culprit
 National Institutes of Health: From Stress to Inflammation and Major Depressive Disorder
 Mayo Clinic: Stress symptoms – Effects on your body and behavior
 Science Daily: How stress influences disease – study reveals inflammation as the culprit
 American Psychological Association: Stress effects on the body
 Psyche Central: What’s a Toxic Person and How Do You Deal with One?