Side Effects of Stress and How to Manage It

Side Effects of Stress and How to Manage It

We all struggle with stress. But, long-term stress adds an enormous strain on your body and overall health. It takes the biggest toll on your immune system, leaving you more vulnerable to any infection that’s going around. And when you’re already feeling anxious and worried, the last thing you need is a stressed-out immune system. Stress sets you up for long-term health conditions that develop over time, like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.

Unfortunately, you can’t avoid stress completely. But you can take specific steps to help your mind and body calm down – even in the face of non-stop stressors.

The Side Effects of Non-Stop Stress

Stress isn’t just a feeling – it’s a whole system of physical reactions that are supposed to keep you safe from imminent danger. Those reactions protect you when you’re facing immediate, temporary threats like avoiding a car crash. Their sole purpose is to help you survive by stimulating “fight or flight” action.  When the danger passes, the system turns off and resets.

But when you face stress all the time – work deadlines, traffic jams, bad news – the system can’t turn off. It stays on ready alert around the clock and never gets to stand down. That’s when “survival mode” transforms into a threat on its own. Constant stress knocks your whole body off track, causing physical, mental, and emotional distress.

How Stress Impacts Your Physical Health

When we’re overstressed, we get sick. Stress hormones drive inflammation and over time, wreak havoc on your cells, tissues and organs. Maybe it shows up as stress headaches, maybe stress hits you in the gut, or maybe it just makes you tired. 

Symptoms or physical  side-effects you may feel  from the stress include:1-4

  • chronic low-level inflammation
  • muscle tightness and pain throughout the body
  • gastrointestinal issues including diarrhea, constipation, nausea, and abdominal pain
  • weight gain and obesity
  • immune issues
  • hypersensitivity to environmental triggers like mold and mycotoxins

The way stress fuels immune system imbalances can be especially dangerous—especially when facing infections. When alarm protein galectin-3 gets activated in response to stress, illness, or injury, it sets off a series of inflammatory reactions. 

Stress scrambles your immune system so much that it triggers immune overreactions and under-reactions. The overreactions can trigger an autoimmune condition. But immune system under-reactions can be just as dangerous, leaving you susceptible to aggressive viruses, bacterial and fungal infections, gut dysbiosis, and much more.

Cognitive Effects of Stress

When you’re constantly stressed out, your brain can’t function the way it’s supposed to.5 

Chronic stress can cause:

  • confusion and foggy thinking
  • inability to concentrate
  • difficulty retaining new information
  • memory lapses
  • problems with verbal processing

Scientific research also shows a strong connection between chronic stress and Alzheimer’s disease. So learning how to manage your stress today may help protect you against that devastating loss of self in the future.

Proven Strategies to Calm and Manage Stress

Coping with stress is exhausting and depleting, and your body and brain need all the support they can get. These simple strategies help you calm down in the moment, and also provide longer-term support to increase your body’s resilience to stress and improve your coping abilities.

Meditation

If you’ve never tried meditation before, you might feel like you’re doing it wrong – but there is no wrong here. There are many different methods and techniques, so keep trying until you find a practice you feel good about. As you practice meditation over time, you’ll notice how much clearer and calmer your mind and emotions become. That helps your body better adapt to rapidly changing situations and shut down stress responses more easily.

Time in Nature

Spending time outdoors in nature helps your body and mind relax. Go for a walk in the woods, dip your feet in the ocean, or relax on a hammock in your backyard. Taking even ten minutes in nature can lift your mood and reduce your stress level.

Yoga and Mind-Body Exercises

Practicing yoga promotes relaxation for your mind and body. Yoga involves more than stretching your muscles. It involves focused mindful breathing and spiritual engagement. Regular yoga practice helps regulate your nervous system and reduces the harmful effects of stress.

Eat a Healthy Diet

When you’re stressed, your instinct may be to grab for sweet, salty, fatty foods – but those can add to your body’s stress load. Healthy foods, especially fruits and vegetables, packed with nutrients and antioxidant compounds help your body cope with the damaging effects of stress.

Exercise

Physical activity helps your body blow off steam, but its benefits don’t stop there. Exercising leads to the release of endorphins, natural “feel-good” chemicals that combat the effects of stress. Exercise also helps regulate your body’s stress responses so you become less reactive when faced with stressors. So go for a walk, take a bike ride, or dance around the room and let those endorphins kick in.

Try A Relaxing Supplement, Pure Honokiol

When stress and anxiety overwhelm you, pure honokiol – a powerful compound extracted from magnolia bark – offers quick, calming relief and helps support healthy cortisol balance. It also crosses the blood brain barrier to interact with GABA receptors, to support a feeling of calm and relaxation. Honokiol is a powerful antioxidant known to specifically improve brain health and function. It also helps reduce brain inflammation, which has been closely linked with depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders. Honokiol acts like a natural anti-depressant, and has also been shown to relieve anxiety and support deep, restful sleep.6

Chronic stress is the number one contributor to chronic diseases and life threatening illnesses. It’s the pilot light that triggers uncontrolled inflammatory damage throughout the body, and suppresses our immune system and healing abilities. On the other hand, when we get the upper hand against stress, and calm our overactive nervous systems with healthy nourishing approaches, we can uncover and activate our deepest healing abilities, and overcome our health challenges, regardless of how big or how small.

Sources:

1.     Liu YZ, Wang YX, Jiang CL. Inflammation: The Common Pathway of Stress-Related Diseases. Front Hum Neurosci. 2017;11:316.

2.     Henderson NC, Sethi T. The regulation of inflammation by galectin-3. Immunol Rev. 2009 Jul;230(1):160-71.

3.      Hannibal KE, Bishop MD. Chronic stress, cortisol dysfunction, and pain: a psychoneuroendocrine rationale for stress management in pain rehabilitation. Phys Ther. 2014;94(12):1816-1825.

4.      Morey JN, Boggero IA, Scott AB, Segerstrom SC. Current Directions in Stress and Human Immune Function. Curr Opin Psychol. 2015;5:13-17.

5.      Lupien SJ, Maheu F, Tu M, Fiocco A, Schramek TE. The effects of stress and stress hormones on human cognition: Implications for the field of brain and cognition. Brain Cogn. 2007 Dec;65(3):209-37.6.  Zhang B, Wang PP, Hu KL, Li LN, Yu X, Lu Y, Chang HS. Antidepressant-Like Effect and Mechanism of Action of Honokiol on the Mouse Lipopolysaccharide (LPS) Depression Model. Molecules. 2019 May 28;24(11):2035.