10 Surprising Ways Stress Is Making You Sick
Stress is natural and can even be good for you in small doses, boosting motivation and alertness. However, the effects of prolonged stress can take a massive toll on the body and manifest in some unexpected ways.
When under stress, the body releases hormones — such as adrenaline and cortisol — that elevate your heart rate, raise your blood pressure, halt digestion, and make you sweat. These physical effects are meant to be quick bursts of whatever’s necessary to get you out of harm’s way. After that, everything is supposed to go back to baseline.
If you’re chronically stressed, your body doesn’t get the chance to go back to baseline. It means that your heart rate stays high along with your blood pressure, which increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. A constant barrage of stress hormones will create digestive issues and wreak havoc on your immune system, among many other unfortunate symptoms we’ve listed below.
The good news is stress is relatively easy to manage once you have the proper tools. Meditation is one well-established stress buster that does wonders for the stress-prone, especially when done on a daily basis. Guided meditation helps establish a habit and is as easy as downloading the Inscape app. Check out the Release Stress series on the app — it’ll help soothe your nerves and put your mind and body at ease.
10 Different Ways Stress Makes You Sick
You’re Gaining Weight
High levels of cortisol in the body impair the ability to process blood sugar and slow down your metabolism, which can lead to weight gain. Stress eating is also a culprit because you’re likely to nosh on unhealthy foods and eat way too much of it.
There’s a Literal Pain in Your Neck
Women usually store stress in their upper back and neck muscles, which can lead to bad posture and tension headaches. Men on the other hand often experience stress pain in the lower back, affecting gait and alignment.
You’ve Got Tummy Troubles
Stress can cause the gut to produce more digestive acid, leading to heartburn. It can also slow digestion, which causes gas and bloating, and may even lead to cramping and diarrhea.
Your Hair is Falling Out
Losing a few strands is normal, but stress can disrupt hair growth by forcing a bunch of hair follicles into a resting phase, causing those hairs to fall out. Under stress, the immune system can also attack your hair follicles, resulting in hair loss.
You Break Out in Hives for Apparently No Reason
If you're suddenly covered in red, itchy bumps, stress might be to blame. Excessive stress triggers your immune system to start releasing histamine. After being bombarded with histamine for awhile, your body develops an allergic reaction, which can manifest in hives.
You’re Down with a Cold … Again
Stress suppresses the immune system, making you more vulnerable to viruses. In Carnegie Mellon University’s Common Cold Project, researchers infected participants with a cold virus, and those who reported being stressed out were twice as likely to get sick as those with fewer stressors.
Yep, That’s a Zit
If your face is suddenly a mess of pimples, stress might be to blame. When you're stressed, sebum-producing skin cells get overstimulated and produce excess oil, which mingles with dead skin cells and dirt to clog hair follicles, leading to acne cysts.
You Can’t Fall Asleep
A mind racing with worries is not a mind that can’t easily find rest. Even if you’re not actively thinking about something, your body is still primed for stress. Being pumped full of adrenaline and cortisol is the complete opposite of being ready for bed. Find some shut-eye in the Inscape app by following the Instant Stress Relief meditations, under “Moments.”
You’re Not in the Mood
Sex can be a fun and effective way to relieve stress, but ironically, it’s also a significant reason why stressed out people lose sexual desire. Studies show that stress affects the production of testosterone, which is the main driver of your libido.
Find calm before it’s too late. A 2017 study in the journal Preventive Medicine indicated that prolonged exposure to work-related stress is linked to an increased likelihood of specific cancers, including lung, colon, rectal, stomach, and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.