Feeling stressed has long-term health consequences, warns expert

Rajita Sinha, PhD, director of Yale Medicine’s Interdisciplinary Stress Center, pointed out the signs of chronic stress and the possible long-term consequences. There are cognitive, emotional, physical and behavioural signs of ongoing stress. “Not all four of these categories of symptoms are necessarily going to show up in one person,” said Sinha.

“But if someone has three to five of these symptoms for more than several weeks, they might be suffering from chronic stress.”

Signs of chronic stress can include:

  • Aches and pains
  • Insomnia or sleepiness
  • A change in social behaviour
  • Low energy
  • Unfocused or cloudy thinking
  • Change in appetite
  • Increased alcohol or drug use
  • Change in emotional responses to others
  • Emotional withdrawal.

Ongoing stress is related to high blood pressure, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and arthritis.

Mood disorders, such as depression and anxiety, are also linked to chronic stress.

Sinah advised addressing stress sooner rather than later as a preventative approach to life-threatening health conditions.

How to alleviate feelings of stress

Stress management involves moving the body, eating healthily, and setting realistic goals.

Additional helpful steps include making time for leisure activities, practising mindfulness, and getting more sleep.

The NHS says: “The first step to feeling better is to identify the cause.

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“If you think you cannot do anything about your problem, your stress can get worse.

“That feeling of loss of control is one of the main causes of stress and lack of well-being.

“The act of taking control is in itself empowering, and it’s a crucial part of finding a solution that satisfies you and not someone else.”

Stress-busting activities can include connecting to other people, whether it be colleagues, friends, or family.

It is also helpful to have some “me time”, where you make time for the things you enjoy.

“Setting yourself goals and challenges, whether at work or outside, such as learning a new language or a new sport, can help build confidence,” adds the NHS. “This may help you deal with stress.”

The health body also advises people to “work smarter, not harder”, which means “prioritising your work [by] concentrating on the tasks that’ll make a real difference”.

By taking action to dispel stress as it comes along, you are able to better protect your health.

Should stress continuously build up, and you don’t have healthy outlets, you could be putting your health and life at risk.

There can be severe consequences to not looking after yourself, as consistently elevated blood pressure puts you at risk of a heart attack.

If you are struggling with stress, you can talk to the Samaritans on 116 123.

The NHS also offers free mental well-being audio guides you can listen to.

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