Feeling stressed from time to time is a normal response to new or challenging situations. However, chronic stress can affect your physical and mental health. Chronic stress can take a toll on your body and brain, making it harder to do your best in school and achieve your goals. Learning more about the health problems stress causes will help you understand how important it is to manage stress or find ways to reduce it.

What Is Stress?

Stress refers to the fight-or-flight response your body and mind engage when you feel like you’re in danger. Your heart rate might speed up, and you may feel tense and anxious. What are the causes of stress? You can feel stressed for many reasons, such as being under a lot of pressure, dealing with significant changes, or feeling overwhelmed with responsibilities.

How Does Stress Impact Your Health?

Stress can affect your body and mind in various ways. When you experience chronic stress, you increase your chances of developing physical or mental health issues. The following are some ways that stress could take a toll on your overall health.

1. Anxiety

Stress can cause you to feel anxious regularly, affecting your everyday life. Anxiety can make it much harder to concentrate on school tasks and other responsibilities. Anxiety can also appear in your body as an upset stomach, skin problems, or other physical symptoms.

2. Irritability

When you feel stressed, you can become angry and irritable more often than usual. Being irritable can make it more difficult to handle school work, as you may have trouble focusing. Irritability can impact other areas of your life, like your relationships with friends and family.

3. Depression

Having chronic stress can increase your risk of developing depression. When you're depressed, you might experience feelings of hopelessness and sadness. You may also have difficulty completing tasks or enjoying your usual activities. Depression caused by stress can lower your quality of life overall, including at school, work, and home.

4. Memory Issues

Stress can cloud your brain and take up a lot of space, making it harder to remember things. Memory impairment can make it more challenging to create new memories and learn new skills. This can affect your academic performance since you might struggle to retain information you learn in class, resulting in lower test scores and trouble completing assignments and projects.

5. Cardiovascular Problems

Chronic stress can lead to problems with your cardiovascular system, such as heart disease or high blood pressure. When you’re regularly stressed out, you increase your risk of having severe cardiovascular problems like stroke or heart attacks. Your risk of developing blood clots can also be higher. Remember that dealing with stress by smoking, eating unhealthy foods, sitting around too much, or drinking, can also raise your risk of developing cardiovascular problems.

6. Immune Deficiency

Your immune system helps reduce your risk of getting sick and helps your body fight infections. Chronic stress can lead to a lower white blood cell count, increasing your chance of catching colds or other illnesses. If you get sick, feeling stressed can make you feel worse and lead to a lengthier recovery.

7. Headaches

When you experience stress, your body releases hormones that affect your blood vessels. These changes can increase your risk of migraines, tension headaches, or other headaches. Frequent headaches or migraines can interfere with your ability to focus on school and other areas of your life. You might also have a harder time than usual dealing with headaches when you’re stressed.

8. Body Soreness

You might not realize it, but stress can cause your muscles to become tense. This can lead to mild soreness at first, but chronic muscle tension can lead to more severe or widespread soreness. These aches and pains can cause considerable discomfort and make it more challenging to concentrate on schoolwork and other responsibilities. You might also avoid exercising due to ongoing body soreness.

9. Weight Gain

Feeling stressed can cause you to reach for foods filled with sugar or fat to satisfy your cravings. Your body produces a stress hormone called cortisol, associated with cravings for fats and sugars. This can make it harder to maintain a healthy weight.

10. Insomnia

While anyone might have trouble sleeping occasionally, chronic stress can lead to insomnia. When you can’t sleep well or get enough sleep, it can affect your mood and cognitive abilities. You might feel more irritable and sluggish during the day. You might also have trouble making decisions and remembering things. A lack of sleep can also increase your risk of other health problems, like heart disease, obesity, and high blood pressure.

11. Skin Problems

Stress can trigger or exacerbate skin problems, like rashes, eczema, or acne. Chronic stress can lead to more sensitive skin that breaks out in rashes, hives, or other symptoms more easily, resulting in discomfort or embarrassment.

How to Reduce Stress

Managing stress in your life is a great way to reduce health risks resulting from chronic stress. What are ways to deal with stress? Focusing on relaxation techniques is one effective way to handle stress. You might learn to meditate, practice mindfulness, visualize calming scenes and environments, or write in a journal. Setting time aside to do something you find soothing can also help, such as taking a hot bath or reading a book. Getting enough sleep, eating a well-balanced diet, and working out daily are excellent ways to ease stress.

Is All Stress Bad?

Chronic stress can be bad for your health, but what about everyday stress you might have from time to time? Stress can be beneficial in these cases since it can motivate you to accomplish your goals or stay focused on tasks and responsibilities.

Learn More Today

If you’re interested in learning more about helping your community live a healthy life, contact the U of M College of Continuing and Professional Studies. We offer a Health and Wellbeing Bachelor of Science degree that can prepare you for a satisfying career in the health care field.

Mayo Clinic
American Psychological Association