Stress is an inevitable part of life. We all experience some form of stress at one point or another. However, ongoing or chronic stress is where we run into trouble. Chronic stress can lead to inflammation, chronic disease, and a decrease in quality of life. It’s important to understand how chronic stress may be ruining your quality of life so that you can see what adjustments you need to make to get your stress under control before it’s too late!
Here are ten ways chronic stress gets in the way of quality of life, and what you can do today to start taking charge of your stress.
10 Ways Chronic Stress Ruins Quality of Life
#1: Causes Sleep Issues
When you’re stressed out, sleeping can be hard. You may lay in bed tossing and turning thinking about everything you have to get done or did wrong, or situations beyond your control. Not only that, but once you get to sleep it may be hard to stay asleep as stress can cause hormones related to sleep to get thrown off balance. Not getting enough sleep can lead to cognitive decline, irritability, sugar cravings, and even weight gain. Not getting enough sleep can also interfere with your quality of life and can make you feel not like yourself.
#2: Leads to Weight Gain
Chronic stress can lead to weight gain in two ways. It can cause cravings for unhealthy foods such as sugar, and it can also cause high cortisol levels. High cortisol can lead to weight gain, especially in your midsection. So when stress is too high, you may have a harder time maintaining a healthy weight, which can lead to further stress in a perpetual cycle.
#3: Triggers Inflammation
#4: Increases Your Risk of Chronic Disease
Experts tell us that inflammation is a major contributor to many (if not most) diseases today. Stress-related inflammation can also cause high blood pressure, which increases the risk of heart disease. Stress can change your eating habits and is often a cause of obesity. The bottom line is that too much stress can lead to disease. Studies show that just by making sure you get at least fifteen minutes of stress reduction in per day, you can significantly cut your risk of disease.
#5: Can Lead to Anxiety & Depression
Feeling stressed out all the time can definitely lead to symptoms of anxiety and depression. When you are constantly running around trying to get a thousand different things done at once, or when relational or work situations are causing stress, it may feel impossible to do anything to take care of yourself. However, paradoxically, making time for yourself is exactly what you need to do help reduce anxiety and combat depression.
#6: Causes Fatigue
Research has demonstrated that chronic fatigue is often associated with high stress. Not only does chronic stress rob you of sleep, it can make you feel physically and emotionally exhausted.
#7: Can Create a Sluggish Immune System
Getting sick when under stress is very common, and this is because stress taxes the immune system. When you are run down from stress, your body is less able to fight off infections. Getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet, and decreasing stress are all essential ways to boost your immune system.
#8: Causes Digestive Distress
If you’ve ever experienced nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or even acid reflux when you felt stressed out, you’re not alone. Digestive distress is a very common side effect of living in a state of chronic stress. The digestive process is slowed during periods of stress, so it’s not uncommon to feel more bloated and experience unwanted stomach distress. Those who suffer from chronic digestive issues such as inflammatory bowel disease may also experience a flare-up when they are stressed.
#9: Speeds up the Aging Process
Have you ever found a gray hair during periods of stress? Well, there may be some truth to stress causing signs of premature aging. As it turns out when you are chronically stressed, your body can enter into a state of fight-or-flight, shutting off certain processes that aren’t necessarily important as the body prepares to take action. For example, if you were in true danger, your digestive system would slow, and circulation would decrease to help give your body energy to fight off the threat. However, when you are chronically stressed, your body can no longer tell the difference between a real threat and a perceived threat. This can cause body processes to slow down when they shouldn’t, which can certainly age your body. When your digestive system becomes sluggish your hair, skin, and nails lack the blood flow they need to look healthy. So chronic stress certainly speeds up the aging process, making it even more important to get stress under control.
#10: Can Interfere with Your Social Life
When you’re constantly stressed out, chances are you don’t feel like socializing as much. Maybe you feel like going home from a long day of work and just sitting on the couch and vegging out to your favorite show or movie. While this is okay every once in a while, social interaction is so important for mental health and can actually help you reduce stress. Don’t let stress interfere with your social life or relationships, as human interaction is a key component to reducing overall stress levels.
How to Better Manage Stress
While some stress in inevitable there are some steps you can take to help get your stress under control so that it doesn’t interfere with your quality of life. Here are some great tips the experts recommend to help get you started.
- Get more vitamin D! It’s essential for boosting mood
- Eat a balanced diet with healthy fats, protein, and complex carbs to balance blood sugar
- Meet up with friends and family (even virtually!)
- Do something you love once a day
- Take a warm bath with calming essential oils
- Read a book
- Go for a daily walk
- Exercise with your favorite music
So make an effort this year to lower stress for greater health, and a better quality of life!