Today’s world presents us with many challenging situations. The fast pace of life and the relentless news cycle is causing chronic stress for many people, which can further result in adverse effects on the mind and body. Because the nervous system cannot differentiate between physical and emotional threats, the body may react just as strongly to an argument with a good friend as to a car accident.
Someone who experiences frequent stress constantly lives in a heightened state of anxiety, which can result in serious health issues. Chronic stress disrupts nearly every functional system in the body, including the immune, digestive and reproductive systems. Stress can even rewire the brain, making the individual more susceptible to anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues.
Let’s look at some of the most common results of chronic stress.
Cognitive Impairment and Loss of Focus: Those experiencing chronic stress may find it difficult to think clearly, focus and concentrate – causing mistakes and errors in all aspects of daily life. Chronic stress can also boost forgetfulness and absent-mindedness. Over the long term, chronic stress can even cause memory impairment and severe conditions like dementia. In fact, research shows that those who fail to manage stress are more vulnerable to Alzheimer’s disease.
Lack of Motivation: Periodic lapses in motivation are expected for most people, but when apathy and disinterest persist, it becomes a life-altering issue. Those living with chronic stress often find it more challenging to get out of bed and start their day – and the lack of motivation can adversely affect their jobs, family, and friendships. Managing stress can help individuals to continue to live life productively.
Heart Attack and Stroke: When the body is under extreme stress, the potential for heart attack increases, even in those otherwise considered healthy. Stress has also been connected to the incidence of stroke, which can further lead to temporary and permanent paralysis. A stroke may necessitate an extended hospital stay and physical therapy. Significant lifestyle changes may be necessary to reduce the risk of these health issues.
Obesity: Many who suffer from chronic stress experience weight gain – and are often clinically obese. Overeating is a common coping mechanism for stress, and a lack of motivation can lead to a sedentary lifestyle without adequate exercise. Those two factors combined can lead to significant weight gain and weight-associated health conditions.
Outbursts of Rage: An inability to control one’s anger is another chronic stress symptom. Sadly, these outbursts are often directed at family members, close friends, and coworkers – and can seriously damage those relationships.
Depression and Thoughts of Suicide: Stress can be suffocating and, if not managed correctly, can feel unrelenting and negatively impact mental health. Depression is common for those suffering from chronic stress; at times, depression can progress to thoughts of suicide. If you are experiencing chronic stress and have self-destructive thoughts, reach out for help immediately.
Confront Stress Before it Gets Out of Control
Many things can trigger stress in our lives, and it is impossible to avoid anxiety altogether. While some stress is normal and helps us process our emotions and avoid danger, it is time to address the problem proactively when the feelings become debilitating.
As a licensed mental health counselor, Denise Schonwald can help you to identify the unhealthy thought patterns that are causing your stress – and provide you with strategies to create a sense of calm. She will work with you to cultivate behaviors that will reduce stress and help you protect your emotional and physical health for the long term.
Contact Denise today to ask any questions or set an appointment.