How Stress Impacts Your Physical Health and Tips for Managing It

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How Stress Impacts Your Physical Health and Tips for Managing It

Stress, when brief, can serve as a powerful motivator. However, ongoing (chronic) stress is proven to negatively impact your health. Left unaddressed, chronic stress can contribute to less-than-ideal health and well-being.  

Board-certified family nurse practitioner, Albalira Gibson-Borrelli, MSN, APRN, and the team at Horizons Wellness Family Health NP PLLC believe that reducing and managing stress is an underappreciated aspect of wellness. 

The toll of stress on wellness

Here are just some of the ways chronic stress negatively impacts health:

Increases risk of anxiety and depression

Chronic stress has a profound impact on mental health. Chronic elevation of stress hormones like cortisol can disrupt brain function, leading to an increased risk of anxiety, and depression. Over time, chronic stress can wear down the brain's ability to cope with additional stressors, making it hard to manage emotions and leading to a diminished sense of well-being. 

Promotes weight gain

There are several ways chronic stress can cause your waistline to expand. The stress hormone cortisol is linked to an appetite increase and cravings for high-calorie, fatty, and sugary foods. 

Stress also increases insulin and blood sugar. Among other things, insulin promotes fat storage by stimulating fat cells to take up glucose, which means stress makes you more likely to gain weight and have a challenging time managing your weight. 

Interferes with sleep

Problems sleeping is an extremely common result of chronic stress. Unaddressed stress can keep the body in a state of heightened alertness, making it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep throughout the night. 

Chronic stress can lead to insomnia or fragmented sleep, which prevents your body and mind from rejuvenating fully. The lack of restorative sleep makes things worse and can lead to tiredness during the day, reduced cognitive function, and daytime sleepiness.  

Saps energy and productivity

Excessive stress takes a toll on energy levels and productivity. The constant activation of the body's stress response system can zap your energy and leave you feeling perpetually tired and unmotivated. 

It can lead to problems concentrating, and impair your decision-making abilities, and creativity. The result is reduced productivity and withdrawal from social and leisure activities. 

As productivity wanes, it can become more difficult to meet obligations and pursue your goals and the things you care about. 

Increases risk of heart disease

There’s no doubt about it, too much stress is bad for your heart. Stress contributes to the buildup of arterial plaque, increasing the risk of heart attacks and strokes. In addition, stress-induced behaviors such as poor diet and lack of exercise have a further negative impact on heart health.  

Weakens the immune system

Being in a state of chronic stress makes you more susceptible to illness because excess stress suppresses the immune system. When the body is stressed, it prioritizes immediate survival, tampering with the immune system. 

Doctors prescribe corticosteroids to patients with conditions associated with overactivity of the immune system. These medications mimic the stress hormone cortisol and have a powerful impact on suppressing the immune system. 

Managing stress for better health

The following are things you can do today to start reigning in chronic stress:

Exercise regularly

Exercise is a powerful way to reduce stress. It helps to clear the mind, improve mood, and enhance physical well-being. Activities like running, swimming, and cycling, can help you feel good and keep your brain sharp. 

Engage in stress-busting activities

Mindfulness meditation, yoga, and tai chi aren’t just exercises for the body, but also the mind. They help ground thoughts in the present moment. Regular practice can lower cortisol levels, reduce blood pressure, and improve sleep.

Delegate tasks

Taking regular breaks and delegating tasks can go a long way in reducing stress levels. When possible, reduce your workload by delegating tasks to others to prevent you from feeling overwhelmed and gaining more balance in your life. 

Patients in and near Orange County, New York can rely on Horizons Wellness Family Health NP PLLC for comprehensive, holistic care that takes a patient-centered approach. Contact us for all your family health needs by calling the office or going online to schedule your visit today.