Chronic stress left untreated can cause serious health problems. These problems include physical and mental conditions. But you can find relief for your chronic stress and related effects through psychological counseling. Below is more information about how stress affects your body and how to deal with it.
How Chronic Stress Affects Your Physical Health
Stress causes your body to go into its fight or flight response. In other words, the effects of stress on your body prepare you to flee or take action through a release of hormones. These hormones heighten your physical and mental alertness, increase your heart rate and cause you to take quicker breaths. These reactions are very important for helping you survive when your life is on the line. But this heightened state of arousal causes problems when it lasts too long or your are not actually in immediate danger. Chronic stress causes you to stay in your fight or flight mode for a lengthy period of time, taking a toll on your physical and mental health.
Effects of long term, chronic stress include:
- Concentration problems
- Low sex drive
- Disorganized thinking
- Appetite changes
- Helplessness and hopelessness
- Frequent illnesses
- Digestion problems
- Mood changes
- Sleep problems
These problems easily become unmanageable over time if you continue suffering chronic stress. Your stress affects your cardiovascular system, causing high blood pressure, heart attack or stroke. It also affects your gastrointestinal system, leading to stomach pains and bloating, as well as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), irritable bowel syndrome (IBD) or peptic ulcers.
Your muscles tense during stress. As part of chronic stress, they stay tense for too long and can cause headaches, migraines and other pains. Your breathing changes under duress, sometimes worsening symptoms of bronchitis, asthma or COPD.
How Chronic Stress Affects Your Mental Health
It is not just your body that suffers under chronic stress. Your mind suffers, too. You can develop ongoing anxiety, substance abuse, depression, sleep problems and personality disorders. Stress can also affect your self-esteem, concentration, memory, learning and cognition.
Chronic stress can change your brain structure, according to the latest research. Parts of your brain can even lose volume. Through these changes, you are more prone to suffer behavioral, cognitive and emotional problems. You also become more vulnerable to mental illnesses.
Coping with Chronic Stress
Obviously, chronic stress is harmful to your body and mind. For wellness, you need to find relief for your stress and get back to healthy stability. The problem for most people is that they cannot escape their ongoing problems that lead to this stress. This means you have to learn how to manage your responses and how you cope with your struggles. You learn these coping mechanisms through stress management therapy.
Coping methods include:
- Eliminating your stress
- Changing how you think about your problems
- Setting limits and boundaries
- Taking better care of yourself
- Starting a stress management therapy program
A good example of chronic stress has been the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on our everyday lives. Many of us have experienced ongoing strain in this global crisis and a list of new mental and physical health problems, as a result.
Ways to cope with this pandemic-related stress or other long term strain include:
- Limiting your media consumption to specific hours of the day or a time restriction
- Allowing time for a break to yourself each day, such as for some self-care, relaxation or pleasurable activities
- Staying connected to friends and family through phone calls, video chats and other ways
- Talking to your loved ones about your feelings of anxiety or stress
- Starting a mental health or wellness program, such as through online counseling with a psychologist
Having positive support helps you strengthen and become resilient in the face of your chronic stress. It also helps you prevent the development of mental health conditions caused by stress or trauma, such as depression.
Manage Your Chronic Stress through Online Counseling Today
Starting a therapy program for stress management is easier than you think. In Raleigh, North Carolina, Greene Psychology Group offers online therapy you can access from your home, office or other quiet location. This makes getting the help you need easier than ever before. Call Greene Psychology Group today at 919-205-5339 to schedule your stress management therapy and start living a healthier everyday life.