You may feel one or more of physical symptoms such as nausea, dizziness, stomach ache, palpitations, chest pain or sweating when you feel stressed. While these words describe some of the short-term symptoms associated with stress and anxiety, too much stress for too long can also have significant adverse long-term effects on your physical health. This can go on to create a vicious cycle, in which stress causes illness and the illness in turn causes more stress. This is why it is important to recognize the connection between stress and health, making stress relief a priority.
Here are some examples of how stress can affect your physical health:
- Stress can make your acne
- Headaches can increase in frequency and severity with recurrent anxiety.
- Stress can exacerbate chronic pain.
- Stress can also cause more frequent colds because of a weakened immune system.
- People who are chronically stressed may feel more tired and may get less sleep.
- Anxiety and stress can also change the microbes in the gut that eventually lead to problems like irritable bowel syndrome or auto-immune digestive illness. In the short term, stress can cause stomach aches and nausea.
- Stress has also been associated with changes in appetite. It may cause either stress-eating and gain in weight or low appetite and weight loss.
As you can begin to see, stress can trigger many different reactions in the body leading to physical problems. If you are a worrier, these problems can exacerbate your anxiety. So, what are some ways that you can start to tackle this stress and prevent it from having significant effects on your health?
- Address any obvious triggers for your stress, e.g. a troubled relationship, difficulty at work/school
- Ensure that you are sleeping well and eating healthy, balanced meals (low carbohydrate, low sodium, high protein/fiber diets are preferred)
- Exercise to keep both your mind and your body healthy
- Take a breather from any activities that may be causing you excessive stress if that option is available, e.g. time off from work or school
- Practice relaxation strategies and/or mindfulness. There are many apps and YouTube videos that can help you practice mindfulness.
- Speak to someone, whether it is a member of your family or friend. Being heard can decrease your stress.
- If you need more support, seek the help of a therapist or counselor who can help you deal with your anxiety.
- Speak to your doctor about both your mental and physical health. They can help to investigate if your physical symptoms are indeed associated with your stress or if they have an organic basis. They may also be able to provide you with help in reducing your stress levels.
It is very important that you start to control your stress before it can control you. There are many harmful effects of chronic, long-term stress that can be avoided if you start to address the triggers for your stress and its effects.