Can Stress Make You Sick?

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77% Of People Regularly Experience Physical Symptoms Caused By Stress

How Stress Affects Our Physical and Mental Health

Stress has a significant impact on the health and well-being of people in the United States and worldwide. Research conducted in 2014 by The American Psychological Association found that 77% of people regularly experience physical symptoms caused by stress, and 73% regularly experience psychological symptoms caused by stress.

This means that 3 out of 4 of us experience physical symptoms due to stress, such as:

  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Muscle tension
  • Change in appetite
  • Teeth grinding
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Gastrointestinal issues such as upset stomach, diarrhea, constipation, and nausea
  • Chest pain
  • Menstrual cycle changes
  • Skin issues, rashes
  • High blood pressure
  • Body aches and pains

Nearly 3 out of 4 of us experience psychological symptoms due to stress, such as:

  • Irritability
  • Anger
  • Feeling nervous
  • Lack of energy and chronic fatigue
  • Feeling as though you could cry

The world since 2014 has become increasingly uncertain. Newer (pre-pandemic) research uncovered that 63% cited the “Future of our nation” as the top source of stress, with money, work, political climate, and violence/crime following closely behind.

Reduce The Impact Of Stress On Your Physical Health

Stress is one of the strongest negative influences on physical and mental health. According to the American Psychological Association, excessive stress can cause tension headaches, migraine, muscle pain or tension, shortness of breath, increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, and more.

Psychologically, stress causes anxiety, panic, short temper, and feelings of depression or overwhelmedness on top of the underlying stress.

Stress is a significant individual and public health problem that is linked with a wide range of physical health problems. Research dating back to the 1990s estimated that between 75-90% of all primary care visits are for stress related problems.

Stress Management Tips

What Are Stress Triggers For You?

To better manage your stress level and reduce its impact on your physical health, it is essential to identify your personal stressors and triggers.

One of the best ways to manage and reduce your stress is to start by identifying your stressors. Try keeping a stress journal for 1-2 weeks. This way you’ll see when, where, and with whom, you have the most intense feelings of stress. With this information, you can change what can be changed, and learn to let the rest pass.

Pay attention to how stress feels to YOU. Do you get angry or irritable? Do you you experience insomnia? Do you get headaches or an upset stomach? Pay attention and document your triggers and how stress makes you feel.

Exercise Your Way To Reduced Stress!

If you want to be happier and healthier, all signs point to increasing your physical activity. When you exercise, your brain releases chemicals that make you feel good. It can also help you release built-up energy or frustration.

The good news is that almost any form of exercise can increase your fitness level AND reduce your stress level. All you need to do is pick activity that you enjoy and get moving! Examples of exercise that people find to be helpful in reducing stress level and improving physical health:

  • Walking
  • Stair climbing
  • Dancing
  • Bicycling
  • Yoga
  • Tai Chi or any martial arts activity
  • Gardening
  • Swimming
  • Strength training
  • Hiking
  • Pilates
  • Your favorite sport – how about pickleball?

This metastudy concluded that “physical activity and exercise probably alleviate some symptoms associated with mild to moderate depression.” The evidence also suggests that physical activity and exercise can reduce anxiety.

In short, exercise is a healthy and proven path to a mentally and physically healthier life!

Healthy Ways To Manage Stress

When faced with excessive stress it can be easy to binge on junk food, Netflix, or other unhealthy habits. It’s easy to see how unhealthy habits can lead to physical health problems. Instead of engaging in your usual “go to” unhealthy stress reliever, try to replace it with a healthy habit!

  • Exercise each day! Getting physical activity every day is one of the easiest, cheapest, and best ways to cope with stress and improve physical health and fitness.
  • Do something you enjoy. When stress is at its peak, do something you enjoy to help get you over the hurdle. It could be as simple as reading a good book, listening to music, watching a movie, or hanging out with a friend.
  • Learn new ways to relax. Instead of your unhealthy habit, try meditation, yoga, or deep breathing. You’ll sleep better and feel less stress, ultimately leading to improved physical health.
  • Maintain a healthy diet. Skip high sugar foods and excessive caffeine intake. Eat plenty of whole grains, vegetables, lean protein, and fruit.

Novum Psychiatry Can Help

If you are concerned that your stress level is affecting your physical health, Novum Psychiatry has mental health providers who can help.

Novum Psychiatry serves Sudbury, Plainville, and surrounding communities. Our highly-trained psychiatrists and therapists offer a comprehensive and confidential approach to private, outpatient therapy and psychiatric care. Whether this is your first time seeking help or if you are seeking a new provider, Novum Psychiatry can help.