As much as you try to eliminate stress, it’s impossible to remove it from your life entirely. Stress seeps into everyday life through your job, financial situation, a death in the family, relationship problems, or simply by being stretched too thin. Unfortunately, as good as you think you are at coping with pressure, prolonged stress may already affect your body. If you’re feeling tension most of the time, here are six negative ways stress could impact your health.
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1. Contributes to Heart Problems
One of the most dangerous ways stress eats away at one’s health is by creating heart problems. When you reach the boiling point over something, your body responds by releasing the hormone cortisol. If you’re stressed every day, this amount of cortisol will cause inflammation over time. In turn, your heart pumps faster, putting you at risk for high blood pressure and a heart attack. If you’re feeling stressed most of the time, it may be time to look at changing your job or home situation.
2. Wreaks Havoc on Hormone Levels
Another surprising effect stress has on your health is wreaking havoc with certain hormones. Both women and men have the hormones estrogen and progesterone. Progesterone regulates estrogen levels, but if you’re stressed, you could experience an overproduction of cortisol. This causes progesterone to become depleted and estrogen swings out of control. That turns into a condition called estrogen dominance. For women, this means heavy periods, fibroids, moodiness, and weight gain. In men, it causes fatigue, gynecomastia (enlarged breast tissue), and excess fat.
3. Exacerbates Anxiety
While similar, stress and anxiety are not the same thing. If you experience chronic anxiety, you feel excessive worry even when you’re having a good day. Anxiety is born from your inner feelings, while stress comes from the outside. However, if you’re already an anxious person to start with, adrenaline released by your body when stressed exacerbates those feelings. That makes your worries seem insurmountable, leading to chest pain, headaches, or intestinal distress. If you experience anxiety, it’s a good idea to eliminate whatever stressors you can.
4. Inhibits a Good Night’s Sleep
Have you ever gone to bed and been unable to sleep because of racing thoughts and a pounding heart? That’s how stress affects your sleep, and it’s more serious than just a loss of shuteye. When you sleep, not only are you resting, but your entire body is resetting itself. That includes your skin cells, immune system, and hormone levels. That’s why you wake up looking and feeling refreshed. If stress inhibits your sleep, wrinkles, and deep lines are more prevalent, and you’re more at risk for weight gain, diabetes, and heart disease.
5. Aggravates Aches and Pains
Many people think stress only causes emotional agony but it also aggravates physical pain. When you become stressed, your body tends to tense up, leading to neck pain, intestinal cramps, and even hair loss. Plus, even if you can fall asleep while you’re so upset, you may end up clenching or grinding your teeth. This condition is called bruxism, and it often results in broken teeth, facial pain, headaches, and jaw problems. Physical pain because of stress means you need to alter something in your life as soon as possible.
6. Intensifies Symptoms of Depression
While stress may not directly lead to depression, it may intensify the symptoms. When you think of stress, you imagine someone in an agitated state, whereby depression seems more like a slow, gloomy mood. So, how are depression and stress connected? Stress due to a divorce, or problems at work, can result in heightened feelings of inadequacy, loneliness, isolation, and eventually depression. That’s followed by the vicious cycle of fatigue, weight gain, and sleep problems that no one should endure.
Everyone deals with stress, but experiencing it all the time creates serious health problems. Heart complications, estrogen dominance, and depression are just a few reasons to work on eliminating stress from your life.