The Physical Effects Of Chronic Stress

September 7, 2021


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Stress doesn’t just affect us mentally but also physically. Stress hormones cause changes all around the body. These changes are designed to help us be more alert and reactive to dangers - what some people call our ‘fight or flight’ system. 

Stress is designed to be a short-term survival mechanism and can be helpful in allowing us to fight or run from dangers. Stress for prolonged periods isn’t so helpful - in fact, it can cause damage to our bodies. Below are some of the physical effects of chronic stress to be wary of. 

Increased inflammation

Stress triggers inflammation around the body. This is when white blood cells protect the body from potential external dangers like bacteria and viruses. Unfortunately, this can lead to unnecessary swelling and soreness in many cases - existing aches and pains can temporarily get worse while stressed. The increased inflammation can be particularly bad for joint pain - while you may be able to see a chiropractor to help relieve some of this pain, the best way to reduce further pain is to relieve stress. Skin inflammation such as acne can also be made worse by stress. 

Digestive problems

The digestive system is not seen as important during periods of fight or flight. Often the gut slows down or even stops, which can lead to digestive issues such as constipation. Other people experience diarrhea. Stress has also been found to increase exposure to gut bacteria, which can lead to other gut problems. Medication can help to reduce digestive problems, but stress relief is the best remedy. 

Muscle tension

Our muscles become tense when we are stressed. This is a way of guarding against pain. If we are stressed for long periods however, this can have an adverse effect. Chronic stress can lead to achy muscles, which can lead us to feel physically exhausted. 


Stress heightens our senses and causes our mind to be more alert by affecting blood vessels in the brain. Over a long period, this can lead to headaches. In fact, tension headaches are most commonly caused by stress.

Sleep deprivation

In order to keep us alert to dangers, stress hormones interfere with our ability to produce sleep hormones. As a result, many people experiencing chronic stress also develop insomnia. Sleep deprivation can have many knock-on negative effects on our health including poor wound healing and memory loss. 

High blood pressure

When we are stressed, our blood pressure increases. Constant high blood pressure (hypertension) as a result of stress can be dangerous and is believed to be a leading cause of heart attacks and strokes. 

Beating stress

By finding ways to relieve stress, you may be able to prevent yourself from developing many of the health problems above. A few ways to relieve stress include:

  • Exercising

  • Listening to music

  • Taking a hot bath

  • Laughing

  • Meditating

  • Using calming scents

  • Drinking herbal tea

Stress cannot always be avoided, but but finding ways to relieve stress you can stop it becoming chronic - preventing many of the negative physical effects. 

*contributed post*

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