“Discover 11 Telltale Signs of Stress and Effective Ways to Combat it”

# Chronic Stress Can Cause Physical Health Problems

Stress is a common experience for many people, but chronic stress can have a significant impact on physical health. Here are some of the ways chronic stress can affect the body and what you can do to mitigate its effects:

## Brings on Headaches

If you are prone to getting headaches or migraines, chronic stress can make them worse. Inflammation is a key component of migraines, and stress can trigger an inflammatory reaction in the body. Additionally, stress-induced muscular tension in the neck can cause headaches.

### The Fix

Try relaxation exercises, yoga, or Pilates to help manage stress. Over-the-counter painkillers like ibuprofen, paracetamol, and aspirin can also help resolve tension headaches within 20 minutes. If headaches persist, consult your GP for stronger treatment options.

## Cardiovascular Risk and Blood Pressure Rise

Acute stress can cause a temporary increase in heart rate and blood pressure due to the release of adrenaline. However, chronic stress, particularly psychological stress, can lead to long-term cardiovascular problems. Chronic stress can cause increased blood pressure, which is a risk factor for strokes and heart attacks.

### The Fix

Relaxation techniques, regular exercise, and maintaining a healthy weight can help reduce blood pressure and relieve stress. Cut down on salt intake, as it can make your body hold onto water, raising your blood pressure further.

## Disrupts Digestion – Triggers IBS

Chronic stress can cause stomach pain, reflux, indigestion, gas, and a change in bowel habits. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is common among those who are chronically stressed. Stress can change the gut’s bacterial profile, affecting digestion, motility, and other key functions.

### The Fix

Eat slowly and sit down for meals, aiming to spend at least 20 minutes on each meal. Hypnotherapy, meditation, and counseling can help ease IBS symptoms. Gentle exercise can also work wonders. See your doctor to rule out inflammatory gut issues and other more ominous problems.

## Affects Sleep Patterns

Stress can disrupt sleep patterns, making it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep. When people wake up in the middle of the night, their minds can become flooded with stress-related thoughts, making it even harder to fall back asleep. Sleep disruption can exacerbate stress levels, creating a vicious cycle.

### The Fix

Try cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I), a structured program that helps people identify thoughts and behaviors that make sleep problems worse. The Sleepio app offers an online sleep improvement program that you can tailor to your needs. Consider “sleep restriction” – go to bed only when sleepy and get up as soon as you wake. Follow the “15-minute rule” – if you can’t sleep after 15 minutes, get up rather than tossing and turning.

## Linked to Weight Gain

Chronic stress can increase the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome, which can cause weight gain and high blood pressure. Stress can temporarily block insulin, releasing glucose from the liver and muscle cells to the blood to supply the brain.

### The Fix

Aim to lose excess weight through diet and exercise to improve insulin sensitivity. Reduce your sugar intake and find healthy recipe swaps to replace high-fat or sugary foods.

Chronic stress can have a significant impact on physical health, but there are ways to mitigate its effects. By practicing relaxation techniques, regular exercise, and healthy habits, you can help reduce the risk of developing chronic health problems related to stress.

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