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The Impact of Stress on Your Health (And How to Manage It)

Stress, particularly long-term stress, affects almost every aspect of our holistic health. Often, people who don’t feel well assume an illness is the cause of their symptoms. However, in many cases, stress is actually the culprit.

Chronic stress can negatively impact your physical well-being, emotional and mental functioning, and even your behavior. Recent reports indicate that many people don’t feel they are doing enough to take control of their stress. Knowing a few of the telltale “stress signs” can help you manage anxiety and tension as soon as possible and potentially reduce overall impact.

How Stress Affects Your Body

Stress can cause a variety of physical symptoms including headaches, muscle tension, chest pain, fatigue, decreased libido, stomach upset, acid reflux, ulcers, and sleep problems. Individually, it may be possible to manage each of these symptoms with medications, but that doesn’t address the root cause of the discomfort.

How Stress Affects Your Mood

Worry and tension also affect your mood and how you feel about day-to-day life. Stress can cause feelings of anxiety, restlessness, lack of motivation, irritability, or sadness. Much like physical symptoms, medication may minimize emotional distress. However, it’s critical to manage and treat the stress itself for sustainable, positive impact.

How Stress Affects Your Behavior

Your stress changes how you interact with others and the world around you. Long-term stress can cause people to overeat, have an angry outburst, abuse drugs or other substances, withdraw from social situations, and decrease physical activity levels. Ironically, many of the behaviors induced by stress actually serve to increase stress levels in some way.

Managing Stress

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms due to stress in your life, it’s important to take the steps needed to manage it. One of the best ways to reduce stress is to get active. Being inactive by watching TV or surfing the Internet may seem relaxing, but it can increase your stress over time. Activities to try include regular exercise, deep breathing, meditation, yoga, laughing, socializing, and making time for favorite hobbies. Also, be sure to get enough sleep and eat a well-balanced diet.

Know When to Ask for Help

Everyone needs help sometimes. If you’ve tried unsuccessfully to manage your stress or if you’re not sure your symptoms are stress related, speak with your doctor or a mental health professional. Your doctor may run tests to look for other causes, and a mental health professional will help you identify the significant sources of anxiety in your life to help you develop new coping skills.

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