When Lingering Stress Takes Over

Cramming for a difficult exam or preparing for an important client presentation are common scenarios that might cause occasional stress for people. Usually, life returns to normal once the critical event is over and the stress subsides. But for some people, stress is a constant presence. Along with the risk of burnout, chronic sustained stress can impact a person’s health. Learning how to manage stress is essential for staying healthy.

center for family medicine 3 Ways Stress Affects Your Health _ Lifestyle Changes To Lower Stress

1. Constant digestive problems

Occasional digestive upset is routine. But persistent stress can leave a person feeling like the digestive tract is in control. Beyond constipation or bouts of diarrhea, stress can also cause the liver to produce too much glucose, leading to developing type 2 diabetes in severe cases. Likewise, chronic stress can also lead to acid reflux and heartburn. Avoiding irritants like caffeine, consider drinking ginger tea to calm the stomach. Also, consider adding calming activities like mindfulness, meditation, and deep breathing to a daily routine to give the body a chance to relax and destress.

2. Persistent headaches

Just like with stomach upset, occasional headaches are bound to happen. But with people struggling with chronic stress, tension headaches can be a constant, unwelcome presence. In severe cases, persistent headaches can interfere with a person’s ability to work or even enjoy daily life. While rest, over-the-counter (OTC) medications, and even topical treatments like ice packs can provide temporary relief, stress-based headaches require tackling the root issue. If an excessive workload is a culprit, consider adjusting expectations to reduce daily expectations. Likewise, allocating time to relax is essential to avoid burnout and give the body time to recuperate.

3. Lack of sleep

At least once in life, a person will experience a sleepless night caused by racing thoughts that won’t stop. But for chronically stressed people, insomnia may be a constant irritating companion. And evidence has proven that not getting enough sleep can lead to poor performance, which creates a vicious cycle that adds to stress levels. One goal is to work through the issues causing stress. But people struggling to fall asleep should also consider nighttime behavioral changes such as stopping screen time an hour before bed and creating a calming sleep environment with low to no lighting and a comfortable room temperature to encourage sleep.

Learning to control stress for a healthier life

Not all stress sources are avoidable, but evidence has proven that left unchecked, uncontrolled stress can lead to serious chronic health problems. Eliminating stressors would be the easiest way to minimize the physical toll that stress can cause. But in reality, some aspects such as interpersonal relationships or financial and work responsibilities are more challenging to remove. People struggling with chronic stress should consider speaking with a physician or licensed therapist to find effective methods for managing stress.