Sunday, July 21, 2024

How stress impacts your physical and mental health (and what you can do about it) -Dlight News

Stress affects every facet of our lives and can have a profound impact on our long-term health. It’s important to find healthy ways to cope with stress for our overall well being.

Maybelle Ursales, MD and Alexis Lyon-Claus, LMFT, a behavioral health clinician with Dignity Health Mercy Medical Group share the signs and consequences that stress can have on our physical and mental health, in addition to effective tips for stress management in our everyday lives.

Why do we get stressed?  
Stress is a response to pressure or tension that most of us will encounter on a daily basis, whether it’s conflict at work, relationship issues, financial challenges or health concerns. Not all stress is harmful either, such as when you’re rooting for your favorite sports team. Chronic or long term stress that interferes with daily life over a prolonged period of time, however, can be detrimental to our health and longevity. 

Chronic stress can often cause physical symptoms. These can include gastroenterological issues, headaches, body aches, increase in sweating, skin rashes and acne, hair loss and even chest pains. 

Stress and physical health 
If left untreated, prolonged stress can have a negative impact on our physical health. “Chronic stress can weaken the immune system, leading to frequent illnesses,” says Dr. Ursales. “Stress can also increase inflammation in the body, increasing blood pressure and cholesterol which can lead to heart disease and stroke.”

Stress and mental health 
In addition to impacts on our physical health, stress can have serious consequences on our mental wellbeing. Unlike physical effects, however, it can be easy to miss some of the tell-tale signs that our emotional health may be struggling from too much stress. 

According to Lyon-Claus, some commonly overlooked symptoms of stress can include increased forgetfulness or distractedness, brain fog and frequent arguments with friends, families and colleagues. 

“Stressful situations tend to give us a flight or fight response and under normal circumstances, we return to a healthy baseline,” says Lyon-Claus. “When we experience chronic stress, we are staying stuck in the flight or fight response.” 

Chronic stress can also lead to an increase in anxiety and depression and cause interference with normal day-to-day function.

Ways to manage stress 
If you feel like stress may be impacting your health, it’s important to find the primary source or “trigger” of your daily stressors. Lyon-Claus recommends setting limits and boundaries where possible. This can include communicating with your employer about workload prioritization, or temporarily scaling back on social obligations with family and friends. “It’s important to tap into your natural support systems when possible, but to also seek professional support when that’s not available or proving helpful,” says Lyon-Claus.

“Your doctor can also provide recommendations on dietary, sleep and lifestyle changes that might be able to support your goals to reduce stress,” says Dr. Ursales. “Quality sleep is crucial to maintaining optimal mental and physical health.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), other ways to manage stress can include limiting social media use and time spent reading the news, getting enough exercise throughout the day and practicing mindfulness through meditation and breathwork.

Key takeaways: 
If left untreated, stress can have a significant impact on our physical and mental health. While many of us face stress in our daily lives, no one has to suffer in silence. Fortunately, there are a multitude of ways to manage stress and prevent further issues to your long-term health. These include:

  • Understanding how stress affects you personally, both physically and emotionally.
  • Finding the primary source or trigger of your daily stressors
  • Speaking with a physician on dietary, sleep and lifestyle changes that can help reduce stress
  • Using coping mechanisms like setting boundaries, limiting time on social media and practicing mindfulness and meditations

If you are struggling with stress management and need professional help, schedule an appointment with your primary care physician or a behavioral health clinician. Our “Find a Doctor” tool can help you find a Dignity Health Medical Group provider near you.

Meet Maybelle Ursales, MD

Learn more about Dignity Health Mercy Medical Group Behavioral Health

Related Articles

- Advertisement -

Latest Articles

- Advertisement -