By: Marco Mayer
Not scientifically reviewed by Dr. Eeks
You might think of stress as an inevitable part of your life. However, too much stress can lead to severe health complications. Symptoms of high-stress levels include anxiety, depression, irritability, difficulty sleeping, and even weight gain. Weight typically accumulates in the abdomen to create a “stress belly.”
But it doesn’t end there. Unmanaged stress can also impact your body in the following major ways.
Blood Sugar Balance Disruption
Chronic stress can influence the way in which your body uses energy. The body’s primary energy source is glucose, and your body needs to work quite hard to manage the delicate balance. When your body experiences chronic stress, cells will become less tolerant to insulin, which is the body’s blood sugar regulation hormone. The result is insulin resistance, which can lead to type 2 diabetes.
Increased Risk Of Heart Disease
Long-term stress can increase inflammation in your body, which will lead to blood vessel damage and eventual heart disease. Chronic stress can also dramatically increase the risk of heart disease by impacting insulin processes.
You might wonder why you tend to fall ill more often or for more extended periods of time when stress levels are high. Unfortunately, the stress hormone cortisol can weaken your immune system and significantly reduce your body’s ability to fight off infections. At the same time, managing stress can boost your immune system.
The impacts of stress on the immune system are so blatant that healthcare practitioners use oral corticosteroids to treat conditions such as lupus in those with an overactive immune system.
As mentioned, the emotional turmoil associated with stress can lead to weight gain. When your body floods with cortisol for prolonged periods, the hormone stimulates fat and carb metabolism, causing increased appetite. High cortisol levels also enhance cravings for sweet and fatty foods. This website provides more information on stress and weight gain.
While you will need to adopt healthy eating habits to get rid of weight gain caused by stress, it’s essential to practice stress management techniques like breathing exercises, mindful meditation, positive mantras, and yoga.
Headaches, Migraines, And Tension
One of the first signs of high-stress levels is constant headaches, migraines, and tension pain. These headaches typically start as tension headaches as pressure builds in the neck and scalp. Sometimes, tension headaches spiral into migraines. Unfortunately, migraine symptoms can last a few days.
A hot or cold shower or a hot or cold pack can treat tension headaches before they become migraines. At the same time, stress management techniques will help minimize the frequency and severity of headaches.
While stress’s mental and emotional impacts can hinder your ability to function at your best, unmanaged stress can manifest as severe health problems. For this reason, it’s essential to adopt stress management techniques that help you cope with daily stress triggers. You can also consider over-the-counter stress treatments. But if you are struggling to cope with your current stress symptoms like anxiety and depression, it’s best to consult your healthcare practitioner to seek treatment. In some cases, therapy, such as CBT, sleep medications, and anxiety medications, are used to ease the symptoms of stress.