Does interacting with your boss make the veins in your forehead stand out? Does your off-again-on-again-off-again relationship tie your stomach up in knots? Maybe you’ve been dealing with an illness in the family that keeps you up at night.
Regardless of the cause, chronic, long-term emotional stress isn’t just tough on your mental health – it can also affect your physical health. If you need a reason to get started on that yoga routine or just pause and take a few breaths when you’re feeling crazy, take a look at the following ways that chronic stress can negatively affect your health.
1. Heart Disease
Ever notice that your blood pressure tends to rise when you get stressed? It’s a part of the fight or flight response that was important when your ancestors had to outrun mammoths, but isn’t quite as useful when your boss calls you into an important meeting.
That high blood pressure can have a number of serious effects on your arteries and heart muscles over time, leading to eventual big problems, like heart attack and stroke.
Researchers aren’t entirely sure why diabetes correlates with stress, but it does seem that stressed people tend to have higher rates of Type II diabetes.
One reason might be that stress tends to come with other unhealthy habits, like overeating, smoking, and not getting enough sleep – all things that can trigger a number of health issues.
Additionally, stress may also raise blood glucose levels, especially in people who already have diabetes or pre-diabetes.
Multiple studies have found that chronic stress and obesity go hand in hand. It might have something to do with the fact that stressed people tend to indulge in “comfort foods” or emotional eating, as well as the fact that stress releases a hormone called cortisol.
This hormone has been repeatedly linked with weight gain and difficulty losing weight. Its overproduction through stress may be some of the reason that those dealing with emotional issues may have a hard time keeping a healthy figure.
4. Digestive Issues
Stress can worsen heartburn/GERD, IBD, and IBS. Plus, stress can simply cause digestive issues all on its own, even if you don’t already have a diagnosable digestive problem.
Researchers believe that this may happen because the brain and the gut share many of the same neural pathways, so when you experience emotional stress, your digestive tract receives some of the same signals as your brain!
5. Sleep Problems
Insomnia caused by stress can seem like a minor annoyance, but there are countless health problems linked with not getting enough sleep or only getting poor quality sleep.
Obesity, heart disease, and diabetes have all been linked with insomnia and poor quality sleep, but it doesn’t end there – there are countless risks that come with not getting enough sleep.
And it’s not just about health directly, either. People who don’t get enough sleep are also at higher risk for workplace accidents and car crashes.
What physical responses do you experience when you’re stressed? How do you take time to relax and deal with chronic stress? Share your tips in the comments section!