Life is full of things to be stressed about—traffic jams on the way to work, your bank account balance, or your tween’s latest middle school drama. Naturally, everyone gets stressed out from time to time.
But chronic stress—that is stress that goes on for a long time—is different. And studies show that it’s not good for your health. Chronic stress isn’t just in your head: it can take a toll on your body, increasing your risk of high blood pressure, obesity, heart disease, anxiety and depression.
Could you have chronic stress? Here are 8 questions to ask yourself.
- Do your muscles feel tight a lot? When your body is stressed, your muscles can tense up—as if they’re getting ready to spring into action.
- Are you feeling more pain? Chronic stress can actually hurt physically, causing back pain, neck pain, headaches, and more.
- Is your stomach upset? Stress can cause the feeling of “butterflies” in your stomach or make you feel queasy. It affects how your body digests food, which can lead to diarrhea or constipation.
- Are you eating more or less than usual? Stress drives some people to overeat—some experts believe it’s one reason stress is linked with being overweight or obese. Other people may eat less when they’re stressed.
- Is it hard to focus? When you’re stressed, it may be hard to concentrate—and that can have a big impact at work. You may also feel more forgetful or have trouble getting things done.
- Is it hard to fall sleep—or are you waking up in the middle of the night? Stress can cause restless nights, which can leave you feeling rundown during the day.
- Is your sex life worse? Chronic stress can make you less interested in sex. In men, stress may also be connected with erectile dysfunction.
- Are you getting sick more often? Ongoing stress can affect your immune system, making it more likely that you’ll catch colds, the flu, and other viruses.
If you answered yes to a lot of these questions, it may be time to talk to your healthcare provider, and discuss ways that may help manage your stress.
The good news is that there are lots of different and effective ways to help lower your stress and feel more in control. Taking action is a healthy move, both for your mind and your body.
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