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Your body reacts to high levels of demands and worries by giving you stress. This, as you know, can affect you mentally or physically, or both. Most people with a lot of stress get used to it, but that doesn’t make it normal. You can live your life without all this added stress, as many of the sources of stress and overwhelm are entirely unnecessary.
Before you look at ways to reduce stress, it is a good idea to understand WHY you need to reduce it. Here are some of the different ways stress can affect your mentally and physically.
Increases Your Depression
One of the links between stress and your mental health is that it increases the feelings of depression. Stress doesn’t cause depression if you don’t already suffer from it, but it can make it worse over time. One reason for this is because the stress hormones may create a type of sedative effect. This can lead to common depression side effects like fatigue, lethargy, lack of motivation, poor productivity, sleeping more, and having no interest in activities you used to enjoy.
Stress in itself can be a big trigger if you suffer from clinical depression. When you experience that rise in stress hormones, it can lead to your depressive episodes, which then cause more stress, and turn into more depression or anxiety. The only way out of this cycle is to treat both the depression and the stress, and understand where each one is coming from.
Makes Your Anxiety Worse
If you have an anxiety disorder like generalized anxiety disorder, PTSD, or panic disorder, you are already susceptible to anxiety itself. The problem is that many things can easily trigger your anxiety and panic episodes, including high amounts of stress. Just like with depression, increased stress hormones are a very common trigger for anxiety. You might even find that you are having trouble distinguishing between your stress and anxiety, because they continue occurring at the same time. Each one can make each of them worse, just like with depression.
In this case, reducing your stress should help you to reduce your anxiety at the same time. If you think you are struggling with both, try working on stress relief methods first and see if it helps with your anxiety.
It Can Cause Personality and Behavioral Changes
In addition to making your mental health disorders worse, there are also other mental and emotional health changes that can occur when you deal with high amounts of stress. You might notice that when you have a lot of stress, you don’t deal with unexpected changes very well. This is your mind’s reaction to the increased stress hormones you are already experiencing. You can become agitated and irritable much more easily, with far less patience than you usually have.
Some other personality and behavioral changes that are common with people with stress include:
Being more suspicious
Lack of motivation
In turn, this can cause you to be more isolated, lose interest in activities, and have issues focusing and concentrating on work.
There are Physical Effects of Stress
As you probably know if you have ever dealt with stress, there are also many physical signs and side effects. It might start with chronic physical pain like headaches, muscle tension, neck or back pain, and chest pain. It can then morph into other physical symptoms, like fatigue, trouble sleeping, digestive issues and stomach cramping, fatigue, decrease in your sex drive, skin changes, and hair loss.
The problem with physical signs of stress is that they are often similar to symptoms you experience from many other physical or emotional conditions. This can sometimes make it difficult for your doctor to diagnose the problem. Typically what happens is that if you are suffering from one of these symptoms, your doctor will first rule out other causes, then if nothing is found, assume that it is from stress.
Either way, stress is not something you should ignore or push to the side. It affects you in so many ways, that it should be considered just as serious as any other medical condition you might have.