Stress is a natural part of being a human - it's unavoidable.Your stress levels probably rise and fall throughout the day and throughout different phases of life ... But chronic stress can cause some serious problems.
Chronic stress isn't only taxing on your mind, it also starts to affect (or even cause) physical ailments, too. Here are some things that happen when our bodies are over-stressed:
Too much stress causes our muscles to tense up and become sore, causing back pain and tension headaches. According to the Cleveland Clinic, stress can also lead to severe arthritis and fibromyalgia flare-ups. Because stress causes a lower pain threshold, these physical symptoms only worsen when you are stressed out.
2. Your heart and lungs
A stressful life has been correlated with high blood pressure, abnormal heartbeats and blood clots.The Lung Institute also reports chronic stress being linked to worsening symptoms of asthma and chronic bronchitis, all of which are severe health problems.
3. Your skin and hair
Prolonged stress can cause hives, excessive sweating and hair loss. Any skin conditions can also flare-up under stress. Your body loses its ability to repair itself quickly when stressed, so skin flare-ups (like acne) are more likely to scar, according to experts at Women's Health. And some stress symptoms don't even appear immediately - Your hair might not shed excessively until 3 to 6 months after a majorly stressful situation, adds Roberta Sengelmann, M.D., a dermatologist in Santa Barbara, California.
Sometimes, stress can be the cause of stomach pain, gas, indigestion, diarrhea and constipation. Research suggests that those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) benefit from relaxation therapy, possible correlating the severity of IBS with your stress level.
5. Your shoulders, head, and jaw
Tension in these three areas have been associated with stress, triggering headaches, knots and spasms. "Doctors call this the 'tension triangle," according to the Cleveland Clinic - carrying so much tension and stress in these key areas makes for some unpleasant physical symptoms. It can also play a part in TMD.
6. Your immune system
According to Healthline, "Stress stimulates the immune system, which can be a plus for immediate situations. This stimulation can help you avoid infections and heal wounds. But over time, stress hormones will weaken your immune system and reduce your body's response to foreign invaders." This is why frequently stressed-out people have a hard time fighting off colds and the flu.
Too much stress can make you feel overwhelmed, restless, irritable or unfocused, and can help contribute to mental health disorders, like depression and anxiety. MentalHelp reports research that suggests chronic stress can lead to heightened mood disorders, problems with cognitive thinking, personality changes and problems in behavior.
If you're experiencing any of these symptoms, stress-check your life. Feeling consistently over-stressed is not normal and will only make a problem worse. Find simple ways to relieve stress like avoiding the situation (or person), getting enough sleep, exercising, meditating, journaling, or talking about it - your body will thank you for less stress in your life.
Rachel is a graphic designer and photographer with a passion for visual communication. At any given time you will find her with Illustrator, Photoshop, and InDesign open and a bag of chocolate-covered pretzels on her desk.