Everyone gets stressed. And dealing with it is a normal and inevitable part of life. In most cases, daily stress is helpful. It guides you away from unnecessary risks and helps you remain self-aware. These days, however, we are more inundated with stress than ever before. We’re no longer running from large, wild predators, but we are surrounded by endless stimuli.
We stress over social media posts and everything in the news including our physical health with all the rapid changes with COVID-19. The economy never seems settled, and it’s not always easy to feel safe regularly. Our bodies are made to deal with some stress, but the long-term impact can be terrible news if things get out of hand.
The Long Term Effects of Stress
When a stressor rears its ugly head at you, your body is designed to respond. The goal is to protect you from a potential threat. Thus, you’ll experience a burst of short-term effects like:
- Breathing harder and faster
- Increased heart rate,
- Dilated blood vessels
- Raise in blood pressure
- Tensed muscles
- A feeling of “butterflies” in your stomach and perhaps even nausea, constipation, or vomiting
- Stress hormones (e.g., adrenaline and cortisol) are released at an accelerated rate
- Extra blood sugar is produced by your liver to increase energy
Once the danger has passed, all of the above signs and responses should rapidly dissipate. But when stress is ongoing, the impacts also continue, and the long-term effects of stress can be debilitating.
For example, breathing changes can aggravate asthma or emphysema. Constantly tensed muscles can lead to chronic musculoskeletal issues. The digestion-related reactions, over time, may result in chronic pain and/or acid reflux. However, the potentially deadly problems relate to all the chemical responses.
For instance, if the extra blood sugar is not absorbed, it increases your odds of developing type 2 diabetes. In addition, increased amounts of cortisol have been shown to impact everything from thyroid function to cognitive skills. Perhaps most damaging of all is the combined impact of elevated blood pressure, heart rate, and stress hormones. Some fallout may include:
- Increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and hypertension
- Higher cholesterol levels
- Inflammation in the circulatory system
Obviously, since stress is inevitable, the goal is to manage it on a daily basis. Preventing long-term negative health effects increases long-term benefits.
Stress Management Tips for Long Term Benefits
Exercise and Activity to Manage Stress:
Exercise relaxes those tense muscles, and creating an exercise routine benefits your mental health in general. It also gives you a healthy outlet for letting off some steam. So work some physical activity into your daily lifestyle. It’ll also help you with sleep (see next tip)!
Regular Sleep Habits for Stress Relief:
It may sound obvious but there’s nothing like a good night’s sleep when you’re stressed, and this is just one benefit of a healthy sleep routine. And we know sleep plays a role in clinical depression as well. The trick is to make that routine a steady habit.
Healthy Eating Choices Can Reduce Stress:
Reduce consumption of junk food, caffeine, processed foods, alcohol, sugar, etc. Be mindful of what you put into your body to help it be at its best. And when your body is fueled by healthy foods, stress levels can come down.
Mindfulness Relieves Stress & Anxiety Symptoms:
Avoid dwelling on the past and dreading the future. Use practices like meditation and deep breathing exercises to center yourself in the present.
Take Tech Breaks to Alleviate Stress:
Step away from your devices. Your mind needs regular breaks from all the notifications and drama that can be associated with our phones and social media platforms.
Social Support to Lower Symptoms of Stress:
Even in these confusing times, do not isolate yourself. Instead, lean on trusted friends and family for support when you need it. And be sure to be there for others too!
Stress & Anxiety Therapy Columbus Ohio
There’s no shame in feeling overwhelmed by daily stress. Life can be challenging, and it makes sense to find an experienced guide to help. Therapy is a proven path toward stress relief, and Blue Boat Counseling is here to help. Contact us today to schedule with one of our Columbus therapists. We can help you get started with some long-term stress management.